March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Budget hearing picks apart police millage appropriation, consolidation. Administration still facing opposition from Council.

This story was updated on April 17.

Monday, April 16 — The Bernero administration’s budget proposal to appropriate nearly $650,000 on designing a new Lansing Police Department headquarters is the next phase in a four-year trend of appropriating money for consolidation studies.

For each fiscal year since 2009, the administration has appropriated money from the General Fund for police consolidation feasibility studies. The administration says it has actually spent less than $200,000 on those studies. The upcoming fiscal year appropriation would more than triple that — if adopted by Council — and go beyond studies to actual design work for a new headquarters.

Five City Council members — Derrick Quinney, Brian Jeffries, Carol Wood, A’Lynne Robinson and Jody Washington — wondered tonight: What do we have to show for these years of funding studies? And why are we just now learning that the administration has selected a new police building?

Another layer of complexity is that Bernero has proposed spending $193,900 of new police millage revenue to help fund the next phase. That drew heavy Council opposition at the last Council meeting.

The city paid local architecture and engineering firm C2AE about $175,000 for a feasibility study that began in 2010 to see what kind of cost savings could be achieved by consolidation, Lansing Chief Operating Officer Chad Gamble said tonight.

The study also looks at what facility would best accommodate the LPD, including the South Washington Office Complex. The study is not complete — though preliminary data is in — yet the administration has all but settled on moving operations to the office complex and former National Guard armory on Washington Avenue.

The LPD splits most its operations between City Hall and the North Precinct, which it rents. The department is almost completely out of the South Precinct, which still houses the Capitol Area Response Effort, a program that assists victims of domestic assault, Police Chief Teresa Szymanski said tonight.

“So far you’ve spent (this money) and have nothing to show Council?” asked Councilwoman Carol Wood.

Gamble said the C2AE report is not yet completed, but that preliminary data is in, showing several options the city could pursue, which basically involve moving to Washington Avenue or staying put at the North Precinct on May Street. The scope of improvements vary by estimate, and the administration has projected it will cost between $3 million and $14 million to consolidate. Gamble said the money being requested for the upcoming fiscal year would be for the next step in the process: architectural and design.

“We will move forward on preliminary designs then get an estimate to be able to obtain the amount of money to construct what we are going to recommend,” Gamble said. “Money in this budget is for the actual design of facilities.”

Gamble had a copy of the preliminary report from C2AE at tonight’s meeting, but said he would not share it with City Pulse until after Council members had seen it.

First Ward Councilwoman Jody Washington said it appears that for the administration, “Buildings and equipment are more important than police officers. … With this costing so much money, before we even get started, maybe renting is the better option.”

Mayor Virg Bernero, who sat in on the budget hearing, responded to Washington: “If what Council member Washington heard was buildings, not officers, you’re not listening very carefully. Everyone here cares about officers. That’s why the budget is adding seven police officers.”

For Council President Brian Jeffries: “What is problematic is that this is the first time I’m hearing we’re ready to go forward on something. I know we have talked, budgeted money in the past for these studies, but I’m not sure why Council has not been involved in the way of updates.”

Here’s what the Council has appropriated since fiscal year 2009, based on adopted budget reports, for consolidation projects:

  • FY09: $100,000
  • FY10: $103,403
  • FY11: $150,000
  • FY12: $100,000
  • FY13: $643,900 (this figure is proposed and subject to Council approval. The administration recommends spending $450,000 from the General Fund and $193,900 from new police millage revenue on architectural designs.)