Facing huge cuts in city services due to the recession, the Eugene City Council voted unanimously today to blow at least $17 million in city reserves on a new police station that voters opposed three times.
Keeping the reserves from being used to prevent more than $10 million in cuts to popular library, parks, Hult Center, planning, community policing and other services was a primary motivation for the City Manager and councilors. â€œIt really canâ€™t be on the table as part of the budget committee discussion,â€ said Councilor Chris Pryor. â€œWe need to make sure it goes for this.â€
Three south Eugene councilors and Mayor Kitty Piercy had expressed concerns about the budget maneuver on Monday. But including up to $5 million in the proposal for a seismic and mechanical upgrade of the City Hall building was apparently enough to win over their support today.
But while all the councilors and city staff may support prioritizing the police station above other city services, voters do not. Police station measures failed in May and November 2000 and again in 2004. The last margin was 60 percent opposed.
City Manager John Ruiz recommended that the council get around the will of the voters on the police station and spend its reserves on the unpopular facility without asking voters. Voter approval is “unlikely in the foreseeable future,â€ he wrote in a memo.