BATAVIA – With the prospect of spending $10.5 million on a new police station staring them in the face, City Council members have agreed to seek more public input before making a decision to move forward.
“Is there a way to get the public involved?” asked Councilman Eugene Jankowski during Monday night’s conference meeting. “This is a big chunk of change. Maybe we need a public vote so we have no doubt about the direction people want to go.”
Jankowski made his comments after a presentation by City Manager Jason R. Molino outlining possible funding options – which include taking out a $9 million bond or leasing from a private developer.
In July, a task force appointed by the Council recommended building a new police headquarters on a nearly five-acre site at 35 Swan St., on the city’s south side.
For two decades, city leaders have talked about constructing a police station to replace the current one housed in the former Brisbane family mansion, a three-story structure built in 1855 that needs significant renovation.
Jankowski brought up the possibility of a public hearing after he said he was approached recently by J. Peter Garlock, the lone dissenting member of the task force, who asked the councilman to meet with him and three other city residents to explore other options.
“It (Garlock’s request) didn’t pass the smell test to me,” Jankowski said following the meeting.
“I think it is circumventing the system we already had in place. If they have any concerns, they should address the Council as a whole.”
Kathleen Briggs implored her Council colleagues to “step up to the plate as a Council,” adding that now is the time to “put up or shut up.”
“Then I would rather shut up than put up,” countered Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian. “I’m very concerned about an increase in taxes. I’m not satisfied at this point.”
Councilman John Canale said he favored more public comment, noting that he would hold a meeting with residents of his ward before casting his vote to build a new headquarters on Swan Street or any other location.
“We have had very little public input (other than the site selection),” Canale said. “We should have at least one public hearing.”
A former city police officer, Jankowski said that “we need to support the police and build this building to meet their needs.”
“We have kicked the can down the road way too many years,” he said. “Things have changed dramatically in the last 25 years.”
Instead of a public hearing, the Council was advised by City Attorney George Van Nest that it could call for a “public informational session” to receive feedback from the community.
Council President Brooks Hawley said an information session will be scheduled for the board’s Nov. 23 meeting.
“We’re still gathering information on every aspect and every option,” Hawley said.
“There has been no communication (from the public) specifically toward us. What we hear can sway us either way. We need to hear from all sides.”