Downtown neighbors upset at no-bid project for $4M precinct - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Downtown neighbors upset at no-bid project for $4M police precinct

Rendering of future police precinct Rendering of future police precinct

Nashville's newest police precinct, which will be built across from the Music City Center, is being fast-tracked against the objection of more than 90 downtown property owners, and some council members are asking questions, too.

The precinct is also being built as a change-order to an existing contract, rather than through the bidding process.

Nearby property owners question why the city has chosen a narrow strip of land - only 35 feet wide - to build a three-story police precinct with no parking.

"This is just an inappropriate place for a police precinct," said Shelby Smith, who owns property near the proposed location.

The land is across Korean Veterans Boulevard from the Music City Center and neighbors a new Nashville Electric Service substation.

"It's a challenging site at best," said Jack Fleischer, who owns Hermitage Lighting Gallery. "I just think it's the wrong thing to do for the city."

It's a highly unusual arrangement that even members of the Metro Council didn't know about.

"I was totally surprised," said Councilwoman Karen Bennett.

Bennett chairs the public safety committee and said she didn't know - until Channel 4 News told her - the city was about to break ground on the new precinct being built by the convention center's contractor.

"I guess it's sort of a shotgun precinct?" Bennett said.

Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling defends the property as the perfect choice since the land is already owned by the city. The land was acquired for the NES substation that powers the Music City Center, but the substation didn't need the entire parcel of land.

Riebeling said it's in a good location for downtown Nashville.

"It's sort of right in the middle of where all the tourists are going to be," Riebeling said.

The project is being financed with $4 million worth of bonds and was approved by the Metro Council in January as part of the city's capital spending budget.

However, the project was not put out for bids, nor were there any feasibility projects to determine if another site was more appropriate.

The city hired Bell-Clark to build the police precinct under a change-order - that is, an add-on to its contract for the convention center.

"For cost purposes, and just timing purposes, it's going to be done as part of the Bell-Clark contract for the convention center project," Riebeling said.

A number of downtown property owners have filled a petition asking the city to reconsider the site. They want the city to consider buying a nearby building that's currently for sale.

That site is much larger, with lots of parking available and it is listed for half the price of building a new, three-story structure.

"It's a fairly modern building, fully air-conditioned," Smith said.

It may be too late for the city to reconsider, though. Riebeling said the city could break ground any day.

The surrounding property owners think fast-tracking the project isn't the best thing for taxpayers, and they're disappointed that the mayor hasn't answered their emails and letters.

"To dismiss a commercial district that's 90-plus acres, in downtown, really tarnishes the way people would think about him," Smith said.

Downtown businessman Ken Jakes said, "this has got wrong written all over it."

"Do you think anybody in Davidson County will believe the taxpayers got the best return on their dollar, spending $4 million without a bid?" Jakes said.

Larry Atema will oversee the project. He oversaw the Music City Center construction, but he didn't want to talk Thursday about the big change-order that will extend his job for several more months.

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