Plans for SPD's $149M North Seattle precinct put on hold

KING 5's Natalie Swaby reports.

SEATTLE -- Mayor Ed Murray announced Thursday that plans for the Seattle Police Department’s controversial new North Seattle precinct are being put on hold as a racial equity analysis is being conducted.

Bonding for the new precinct is being removed from next year’s city budget until that analysis is completed, said Murray.

Murray cited cost as a big reason for putting the project on hold.

“There was an attempt by my predecessor to make a proposal that combined several precincts in one, and it made the building more expensive,” Murray said. It was being built to the highest environmental standards. It made the building more expensive.

The city will review design elements that increased the cost of the project.

Amidst concerns about the price tag, Murray also said we should be discussing how the police station can address issues of race, and whether it might make sense to build more than one precinct in the north end.

“There are real tensions in this community around race and policing, so I think we need to back up,” Murray said.

The Seattle Police Department has said an upgrade is long overdue in the precinct that serves more than 40 percent of the city's population. The new facility would replace the current precinct, which SPD says has been overcrowded for years. 

Activists that include members of the Black Lives Matter movement feel the $149 million price tag for the project is money the city could be spending elsewhere.

"We need social services, people need housing, healthcare, people need education, food, that's where we should be spending our money.  Not building another police bunker to fund a group that is under investigation by the Department of Justice," one protestor told KING 5 after a city council meeting last month.

During the Seattle City Council meeting on Aug. 15, a resolution, proposed by Council Member M. Lorena Gonzalez, was approved, which called for an independent, outside party to be brought in to study whether the costs outlined in the current plan are accurate and reasonable.

Mayor Ed Murray released a statement following the Aug. 15 vote that said in part:

"I commend the action taken today by City Council to signal a path forward on constructing a much-needed new North Precinct police station and training center.  For nearly 20 years the city has talked about the need for a new facility to replace the overcrowded and deficient station that serves the entire north end of Seattle."

The mayor's statement also concluded comment on the project's controversial price tag.

"I look forward to further discussions with Council during this fall's budget process to fully fund the newly revised $149 million budget within our Capital Improvement Program," the mayor said.

Copyright 2016 KING


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