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Pitch for Central District Police Station on Rice Street fails

Posted on 08 May 2013 by robwas66



North End residents, business owners and organizations tried. More than 1,300 of them signed a petition. They wrote letters, passed motions in support, made their presence known during a bus tour and even handed out cookies. They had elected officials on their side, including Ward Five Council Member Amy Brendmoen and County Commissioner Janice Rettman.

But their efforts to replace the Central District Police Station with a new building at Sylvan Park and bring more cops back to the community may have fallen short. Supporters have one more chance to make a case for the $16.2 million project at 6 p.m. Monday, June 3 at City Hall.

The project, which is one of the largest in the plus-100 list of candidates in contention for funding, faces an uphill battle. After the June public hearing the Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) Committee makes its recommendations to Mayor Chris Coleman. The mayor will pick projects before unveiling the 2014 city budget in August. The 2014-2015 capital budgets will be adopted by the St. Paul City Council at year’s end.

The district is the only one of three that doesn’t have as separate neighborhood-based headquarters. It moved out of rented space at Rice and Arlington in 2003 and to the new law enforcement center, in what was supposed to be a temporary move. Since then community members have tried to get the facility back, proposing at one point that it be built in conjunction with the Rice Street Branch Library. Another proposal was at Rice and Sycamore. But neither location has been deemed feasible.

St. Paul Police Department wants a new district headquarters in the neighborhood and would share Sylvan Park. A station in the district would enhance police presence and improve response times, according to police. It would also provide better space for the 100 officers and civilians who work for Central District.

Attorney and neighborhood activist Kirsten Libby represented District 6 on the CIB Task Force. At the ranking meetings, she worked to get the project moved forward but was voted down. The project finished at 25th and isn’t likely to be funded for 2014-2015.

“We’ve come in five times over 10 years trying to replace our police station,” she said.

Large public safety projects, such as new police facilities or fire stations, do gobble up a large part of the capital budget. “Maybe the city needs to look at a different way to fund these projects, so they don’t compete directly with parks and playgrounds and recreation centers,” Libby said. “This is a huge need for our community. We’ve already lost three recreation centers and McDonough is hanging on by a thread.”

But CIB Committee Member Jacob Dorer cited the high cost. “This would be more than the entire budget for one year.”

Other committee members cited the potential loss of part of Sylvan Park, which would mean replacing park land on a one-to-one basis.

“I hate to see us lose land that kids need to play on,” said District 10 task force representative Dick Dian.

Another concern is that the police department needs to look at leasing space, or combining Central Team with other new facilities it needs. But even doing that would push the proposal back another two years, Libby said.

Discovery Club