May 20 2014 12:00 AM

Council votes 6-2 to pass budget and approve Police Department’s move


TUESDAY, May 20 — Despite controversy over the cost, the Lansing City Council approved Monday moving the Police Department from the North Precinct to the Hill Center on the south side. The vote was 6-2.

The Council also passed the 2014-’15 budget as submitted by Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.

Councilwomen Jody Washington and Carol Wood voted against the police move, which is expected by the end of August, when the North Precinct lease runs out.

At the Committee of the Whole meeting that preceded the budget adoption, At-Large Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar expressed frustration at how Harry Hepler, the landlord of the police’s current precinct space on May Street, has conducted business during negotiations.

Dunbar said that the Council had never been approached by Hepler directly, and instead information had been “funneled through local watering holes” and getting residents “riled up.”

“That I find disingenuous,” she said.

During that meeting, Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko asked Chad Gamble, the city’s chief operating officer, to confirm whether the city had ever been presented with a written proposal that offered to donate the current May Street space.

Hepler had announced recently that he was planning on donating the current North Precinct location to the city. Bernero had publicly dismissed the claims, saying that he was unwilling to work with Hepler because he hadn’t presented any clear proposals. City Pulse was given documents by Hepler on Monday afternoon that appeared to show that he had presented five proposals to the city.

Gamble said the city hadn’t seen any written offer for a rent-free space. “The rent that was indicated verbally was $425,000 to $430,000 and kept changing after the fact.”

Gamble added that the current Hill lease allowed for “a great partnership” between the school district and the city. He also said that Hepler’s proposal was “more costly than what is being discussed today” and had multiple strings attached.

“The offers continued to change while we needed an offer by last fall.”

Gamble also added that the school district has already signed the lease for the Hill Center. It is awaiting Bernero’s signature.

Before the vote, Washington — whose 1st Ward will lose the North Precinct — criticized the back and forth arguments between Hepler and the city.

“I am extremely disheartened that it has become a south versus north item,” she said. “I found this discussion to be really disturbing.”

Washington said she had to vote against the measure because none of her constituents she had spoken to supported the move. She hoped that the police would still maintain a presence on the north side, but said she was unclear if the city would do so. During the meeting, she said to Randy Hannan, Bernero’s chief of staff, that she had still not been given an answer about the matter.

“Randy, I’m still waiting for you to call me back, buddy, about that spot on the north side.”

Steve Purchase, vice-president of Hepler’s development company H Inc., said today that the offer for a rent-free North Precinct is still on the table. He said the city has not responded.

As far as the budget adoption, everything unrelated to the police move went smoothly.

Among other things, the $118.5 million budget adds new police vehicles, a social media manager position and about $500,000 to the city’s rainy day fund.

In other news, President A’Lynne Boles was present at the Council meeting. City Pulse reported on Friday that Boles had been hospitalized last week for an undisclosed reason. She refused to say last week if she would attend.