In the end, Commissioner of Public Works Anthony Scirocco and Commissioner of Public Safety Ron Kim voted against the amendment, leaving the vote split. Both said the money could be better spent elsewhere, especially considering that the city will be facing job cuts in the coming year.
"In the long run, is it going to be a savings when there's nobody on the other end to answer the phones," asked Scirocco. "There are three positions in my department that have been cut that sit in front of these phones."
Kim said fixing public safety communications should be priority No. 1.
"There's a difference between what's essential and what's nice. This $88,000 is what's nice," he said.
Mayor Scott Johnson said the initiatives are apples and oranges.
"Defeating this today is not going to get your police station a new phone system tomorrow," he said. "We're trying to provide a solution for the entire city, not do it piecemeal."
A number of residents took advantage of another in a series of public hearings on a proposed indoor recreation center to be built on the site of the Southside Recreation fields. Though opinions were divided among the speakers, several suggested the new public safety building be rolled into the recreation center project to save costs. Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim dismissed the idea as impractical.
"Many of the people we arrest have certain conditions," said Kim, saying that sex offenders, for instance, would not be able to come to court because they would also be near a playground. "It's very attractive to save money, but operationally I don't believe this would be the proper way to deal with it," he said.
In a separate interview, Finance Commissioner Kenneth Ivins noted that the project already has significant fiscal momentum. It has already been bonded and $423,000 has been spent in interest with another nearly $400,000 in studies and planning already completed. Backing out of investments would cost more money.
"If we said, 'No, we don't want to build a rec center,' and paid this off, we would basically throw away $911,000 of the taxpayer's money," said Ivins.""