Dec. 3 2008 12:00 AM

The Bernero administration presses pause on the police precinct consolidation study.


Stop the presses. After a year of Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero versus City Council battles — the City Market deal, the Lansing Community College parking ramp deal and the Frances Park debacle — the governmental adversaries have reached middle ground about something: the consolidation of the north and south police precincts.

Back during the Nov. 6 Council meeting, President Brian Jeffries and At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood engaged in a heated verbal match with Bernero, accusing him of withholding the request for proposals for a study of precinct consolidation. The pair said that Council was being cut out of the process and wanted to ensure that the request included the possibility of shipping 54A District Court out of City Hall and space for the county-run 911 center, which the city hopes to land. (Finance Director Jerry Ambrose provided the document later in the meeting.)

But Ambrose's announcement Nov. 17 that the mayor was putting a hold on the request for proposals until Council gives input and feels comfortable with its contents was nothing less than shocking.

In an interview Monday, Bernero said the questions Council raised about what exactly was in the request for proposals were — get this — valid. Not only that, but the questions served as a catalyst for some of his own, which in turn raised even more questions within his administration as to the scope of the study. Calling it a "cacophony of concern," Bernero credited the Council with helping the administration see its request wasn't ready.

"We'll wait until we get the request for proposals exactly right," Bernero said.

Wood, who generally takes the brunt of the blame from the mayor for any conflict between the Council and the administration, restated Monday what she'd like to see added into the request. Wood wants the study to examine housing the Marshall Street emergency management center within a consolidated or expanded precinct with the aim of using federal emergency management funds to defray costs. And that would be in addition to studying moving the district court to a more secure location and landing the consolidated county 911 center.

Lansing police Capt. Ray Hall, who is based in the North Precinct, believes that having three precincts (which includes police headquarters in downtown Lansing) embodies the community policing policy of the department, which was implemented by former Mayor David Hollister.

"Operating out of here works well. If we did consolidate, as long as we kept the community involvement we'd be fine operationally," he said, adding that the No. 1 priority of the Police Department is to provide quality police service. He said the precinct has become a hub of community activity — people have celebrated baby showers in one of the community rooms in the station, and a gym hosts pick-up basketball games there.

Hall isn't complacent, however, nor is he fearful of what the study will show when it is eventually completed.

"I think things are working well, but it is always important to improve upon operations," he said.

It is not known when the study will commence. Bernero said he wants the input of each Council member, community leaders and residents to help determine the scope of the study. And even then, he cautions, any findings won't be hastily implemented.

"This is no small issue. It was no quick decision by the Hollister administration, and it will not be quickly undone (if the study indicates that's what should happen)," he said.