Metro officials are in negotiations to acquire property near 12South and Edgehill to become the home to a new police precinct that would reach out to nearby Belmont, Lipscomb and Vanderbilt universities.
The new police precinct, dubbed Midtown Hills, came up in conversations Monday morning between Mayor Karl Dean and Police Chief Steve Anderson during the police department’s budget hearing to help outline funding requirements for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
Anderson, who was named permanent chief in December, has asked Dean for a $7.3 million increase over the police department’s current $145 million budget. The increase is largely the result of staffing requirements for new facilities –– 19 scientists for a new DNA crime lab and 66 officers as a result of a new Madison police precinct, both slated to open at the former Peterbilt facility site.
According to police spokesman Don Aaron, the Madison precinct should open in January. The department is also moving its west police precinct to a renovated car dealership on Charlotte Avenue near White Bridge Road. Under the department’s best-case scenario, Aaron said the Midtown Hills precinct could open as early as summer 2012.
Anderson said the new Midtown Hills precinct would serve the surrounding Edgehill neighborhood and “bring the nearby universities together” at CompStat meetings to share data and ideas in a collective effort to reduce crime. Anderson declined to reveal the specific location Metro is pursuing, but suggested the facility would be constructed somewhere northeast of Belmont University near Edgehill’s community housing units.
When the two newest precincts open, Metro will operate eights precincts, which the mayor said is part of an overall effort to reduce crime.
“The idea is, by adding additional precincts, you actually improve public safety because you’re able to get more coverage and more thorough coverage to smaller areas,” Dean said.
It’s possible Metro’s budget for the next fiscal year could lack draconian, widespread cuts because Dean and the Metro Council voted last year to restructure the city’s debt, effectively freeing up more money in the short term. Metro’s budget for the current fiscal year is $1.52 billion.
Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling asked department heads to analyze the effect of a potential 3 percent cut to their current budgets. But it’s widely believed cuts won’t reach that level when Dean introduces his initial budget in April.
On Monday, Dean also sat down with Sheriff Daron Hall, who said his department is within budget for the current fiscal year.
Recently, the sheriff’s office began overseeing security at the downtown Metro Courthouse and the A.A. Birch Criminal Justice Building. As far as housing inmates in the city’s jails, Hall said Metro is in the unique situation of actually having available space.
“We have 500 empty beds as we sit here today,” Hall said.
Metro has expanded the Metro Detention Center, creating another 256 inmates bed. The expanded area will open next month. Combined with the unfilled facilities, Hall said the city is positioned to charge surrounding counties lacking open space to house some of their inmates.