May 14 2014 12:00 AM

Lansing Police Department landlord offers to let police stay rent free; Bernero rejects the bid

Landlord Harry Hepler offered Tuesday to allow the Lansing Police Department’s North Precinct to stay in his building rent free, which was promptly rejected as “11th hour bullshit tactics” by an angry Mayor Virg Bernero.

Hepler said that he is prepared to donate the current May Street space to the city, which he valued at $390,000 a year. The city, which pays about $300,000 a year rent, plans to relocate its police operations to the Hill Center in Lansing’s southwest corner by the end of August.

Hepler said he expects to send a formal proposal to the city this week. He said he hopes the city would at least keep a significant presence in the current building.

The plan developed when Hepler was approached by Mike Ware, a rental property owner in Old Town. Ware has been collecting signatures for a petition supporting the Hill Center move while also asking for the city to maintain the North Precinct facility on a year-to-year basis until a permanent facility is found. He plans to deliver to City Council on Monday, the same day Council will vote on the LPD budget amendment.

Ware said he and Hepler figured it was a “hare-brained” idea but they were desperate for the LPD to stay put. He would not say how many signatures he had, and he plans to proceed with the petition, despite Bernero’s rejection.

Bernero said he won’t consider any plan that Hepler proposes. He accused Hepler of toying with the city by refusing repeatedly to provide a clear-cut proposal until it was “too little, too late.”

“This is not a chess game or a poker game,” he said. “This is not how the city does business.”

Bernero praised the Lansing School Board for its cooperation on the move to the district-owned Hill Center. He said he is “not about to pull the plug” on that.

“I ain’t buying what he’s selling,” he said several times. “It’s too little too late.”

As for the upcoming vote, Bernero appears to have at least four of the five votes he needs: Jessica Yorko, Derrick Quinney, Kathie Dunbar and Tina Houghton. At-Large member Carol Wood appears to be leaning against it and Jody Washington, whose 1st Ward is where the North Precinct is, is opposed. Council President A’Lynne Boles was unavailable and At-Large member Judy Browne Clarke said she was undecided.