FRIDAY, May 9 – Miguel Ferreyra-Flores will have to make a serious decision about his family — and his design business — if the Lansing Police Department leaves his neighborhood.
“If the precinct moves, we will strongly consider moving out of Lansing,” he said.
Alongside about 15 other residents, Ferreyra-Flores crowded in a City Hall conference room on Friday afternoon to demand a pause to the process to move LPD’s North Precinct to the Hill Center at 5815 Wise Road in South Lansing. The move is scheduled for the end of August. No one from the public spoke in favor of the move.
In the end, though, the Ways and Means Committee, which conducted the hearing, voted 2-1 to send a proposal to fund the move to the City Council for a full vote, which is scheduled for May 19. The proposal calls for the Council to approve spending $475,000 for renovations to the Lansing School District building. The total cost, including rent, would be $2.12 million over years, which the Bernero administration said is revenue neutral compared to the May Street building the police plan to vacate.
Some residents expressed concerns that decreased police presence in the area would detract future investment and even drive away current business owners, like Ferreyra-Flores.
Others called for the money intended for the Hill Center to go to more pressing causes, such as the city’s rainy day fund or repairs from December’s ice storm.
“Walnut has potholes that could swallow my car,” resident Royelle White said during public comment. “There are a lot better ways to spend that money.”
Business owner Jamie Schriner-Hooper, former executive director of the Old Town Commercial Association, expressed gratitude for the North Precinct’s police presence in helping to revitalize Old Town. She warned the city not to take a step backwards with the LPD move.
“People still struggle with the perception that the neighborhood isn’t safe,” she said. “Don’t try to push things through so quickly.”
Police Chief Mike Yankowski said on “City Pulse Newsmakers” on Sunday said the police need much more space than the North Precinct offers. He also said the police wanted a shorter lease than landlord Harry Hepler was willing to offer. Hepler offered a shorter lease in March, but by then it was too late, the chief said.
The committee meeting was attended by Committee Chairwoman Carol Wood and Councilmembers Tina Houghton and Derrick Quinney. The purpose of the meeting was to consider whether the budget amendment to free up funds for LPD’s move should advance to the Council.
Houghton and Quinney voted to move the budget amendment along; Wood voted no.
After the meeting, Wood said she felt very “rushed” regarding LPD’s move. She said the only information the Council has been given regarding the project was a cost comparison sheet — which Hepler maintains does not reflect his most recent lease proposal — and the presentation given during the meeting by Yankowski and Lansing Chief Operating Officer Chad Gamble.
Yankowski and Gamble assured residents that the move was cost-neutral and that community police presence and response times would not be affected.
“Officer deployment is determined by neighborhood, not station location,” said Yankowski. “Community policing is still our priority.”
Wood said the information to back up claims of cost neutrality and police presence is still missing, though.
“We haven’t had a chance to read the lease, and I want to see cost analysis for other locations,” she said. “This move could be the best option for the city. But we just don’t have the information right now to know that.”
In addition to safety and budget concerns, there were questions of procedure as well. Steve Purchase, vice president of Hepler’s company H Inc. asked at the meeting how the city could sign the Harry Hill lease without a Council vote.
Per the city charter and ordinances, anytime the city acquires an interest in real property, it must be put to a Council vote, he said.
“I’ve seen no legal opinion to understand how we can go against this.”
N. Banu Colak, legal adviser to the Police Department in the city attorney’s office said she will look into the matter before the Council votes on the amendment on May 19.