The Selma City Council voted against including a multimillion-dollar bond measure on the November ballot that would have raised money to build a new headquarters for the Selma Police Department, which has been located in a converted train depot since 1958.
The council voted 3-2 Tuesday in favor of the ordinance but did not meet the 4-1 supermajority needed to approve the measure for the November election.
The ordinance would have allowed Selma residents to choose whether they wanted to raise $4 million in public funds to cover half of the estimated $8 million cost of building a new police facility to replace the nearly century-old building now used. The other half was to come from state funds.
The building occupied by the Selma police department has leaky ceilings, leaky windows and is running out of space for storing evidence, and police Chief Greg Garner has advocated for the bond measure. Garner said he was disappointed with Tuesday’s decision but was hopeful that the council might act again to get the measure before the public.
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The response has been overwhelmingly negative.
Selma Mayor Scott Robertson on public reaction to bond for new police station
Selma Mayor Scott Robertson was one of the two who voted against the ordinance, saying he didn’t believe it had public support.
“I really thought a lot about this. I tried to get as many opinions as possible on this,” Robertson said. “I tried to make it a point to ask every person I meet, ‘What do you think?’
“The response has been overwhelmingly negative,” he said.
Robertson acknowledged that the building used by the department was inadequate and said he supported a new police facility but the process was being rushed when it wouldn’t pass by the public. Robertson also said the fact that the Selma Police Officers Association actively opposed the ordinance factored into his decision.
“When I see that two-thirds of the police force are not supporting it – I’d like to see the support of the end users on this,” he said, highlighting the contrast with the last major public safety measure that was on the ballot, Measure S. Measure S was approved by Selma voters in 2007 and created a half-cent sales tax to supplement city spending on public safety.
“I remember – my wife and I own a business in Selma – the POA was always at our door and the fire association as well,” Robertson said. “That’s not happening this time.”
8Millions needed for new Selma PD station
Asked if he thought Selma residents should be able to make the decision, Robertson said he considered it, but he thought the city shouldn’t spend money on a ballot measure that will likely fail.
Selma Police Officers Association president Andrew Guzman said his organization, which has 33 members, opposes bond funding for a new building, saying he believed the half-cent sales tax approved by Selma residents in 2007 was going to pay for the headquarters.
“So when we found out the building was going to be paid through with another tax – we are concerned with the double tax,” Guzman said.
Guzman said the original building plan was supposed to be a joint fire-police building, while the proposed bond would only fund a police station. “That’s concerning to us because the two fire substations are just as, if not more, dilapidated than the police building,” he said.
Selma City Councilwoman Yvette Montijo voted to add the measure to November’s ballot and said the residents of Selma should have the opportunity to decide what they want.
“The part that I find most troubling, or perplexing, is that two council members are not in favor of placing it on the ballot is that they took that right away from the citizens of Selma,” Montijo said. “If we find that our constituents don’t want that police station, then they’ve spoken and we know which way to go.”
Montijo also noted that placing the measure on the November election will ultimately be thousands of dollars cheaper than putting it on the June 2017 primary election ballot, which was suggested by council members that opposed the bond measure.
“The bottom line is this: I don’t understand how two city council members can block the right to put this before our citizens,” she said. “It’s up to them.”