There is an ongoing debate in Sikeston concerning the construction of a new Public Safety Complex to replace the well-worn and far-outdated current facility in downtown Sikeston.
Bids for the new Public Safety complex were opened last week and despite one last-minute glitch, it appears the construction costs will be slightly less than anticipated. That does not mean the facility is cheap nor does it mean it will be a no-brainer to nudge the facility into the city's budget.
But when the smoke clears, here's what remains: Our current Public Safety facility is well beyond its functional days and continues to take precious dollars to maintain. That much is certain.
A new Public Safety complex sitting adjacent to the new Municipal Utilities building would provide an excellent anchor for our downtown and help to move our community into the future.
Like some of you perhaps, I have held reservations about a new Public Safety facility in the past. My concerns were strictly financial. I have never doubted our community needed and deserved an improved facility. For goodness sake, the United States Postal Service abandoned the building for a new one in 1964! That alone should tell us something about the condition of our current building.
Skeptics argue that the new building is too costly given the current state of the economy. That same argument could have probably been made 10 years ago. And I'd bet that same argument could be made 10 years from now.
But the city - with help from BMU - has arrived at a funding plan that makes the new complex doable. That spirit of cooperation is a strong argument in favor of construction now. And the rates quoted to help finance the building are most certainly the lowest we'll see in many years.
Granted, the Public Safety portion of the city budget is substantial. But what is more important than a well-equipped, well-trained, professional law enforcement agency to safeguard our community? The answer is easy.
If we were to wait until the financial picture improves, we'll never construct a new facility. The city is not asking for a bond issue nor any additional taxes from the citizens. Instead, with assistance from BMU, the city can pay for this new facility without additional costs to the citizens. And no "rainy day" reserves will be used to finance the facility.
A huge part of the "quality of life" issue for any community is professional law enforcement. And like it or not, we need the best law enforcement personnel and the best facility possible to achieve our goals.
This new facility will provide for those needs far, far into the future.
On a more personal note, I have voiced strong concerns to the city about the funding for the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority whose task it is to remove the condemned properties in Sikeston. Put bluntly, we lack the funds to adequately accomplish that goal in a realistic time frame.
But as much as I would like to remove these eyesores today, the fact is the Public Safety concerns take priority. And perhaps, if we get creative, we can find other avenues to help remove the 500 or so properties that remain condemned in Sikeston.
We urge the City Council and city administration to move forward with this new Public Safety complex and give the citizens of Sikeston the finest and best facility possible to help permit our Public Safety Department to do the best jobs for our citizens.