Fort Lauderdale residents will get the chance to vote on two bond questions for city parks and police, totaling $300 million, on March 12, 2019. If approved, the bonds would give the city the ability to borrow money to build a state-of-the-art police headquarters and improve parks across the city. Residents will pay for them in the form of property tax increases.
On January 31, the Chamber's Board of Directors passed a motion to support the two bonds. The Chamber's Board of Directors' decision comes after receiving a recommendation from the Chamber's Government Affairs Committee to support the two bonds on the March ballot. However, support for the two bonds was not unanimous within the Government Affairs Committee. Members shared apprehension for more dollars coming out of taxpayers' wallets and called on support for the bonds to come with the expectation that other costs in the city's budget would be offset, if the bonds are to pass in the election.
During the Chamber's January breakfast at the Tower Club, Fort Lauderdale City Manager Chris Lagerbloom voiced his support for the two bonds. Lagerbloom said the current headquarters for Fort Lauderdale Police is at the "end of life" and offered a tour of the building to anyone who would like to see it for themselves. The City Manager also mentioned the need to provide quality parks and robust services, which would be helped by the passing of the park bond.
Here's information provided by the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, describing why it believes a new building is needed:
Current Police Station
Constructed in 1958 for approximately 100 employees, and does not meet the current needs of our 727 sworn and non-sworn personnel.
Additionally, our city’s population continues to grow exponentially.
Fort Lauderdale’s full-time population since construction of the current building: 1960: 83,648 2018: 180,072 2040 Estimate: 205,267
The department currently pays $580,000.00 in yearly rental costs for additional employee office spaces and evidence warehouse.
Our current building cannot withstand hurricane force winds. During Hurricane Irma, personnel were evacuated and relocated to other structures throughout the city. Our ability to provide critical services was greatly impacted.
The building fails to meet the current or future standards of modern law enforcement.
The current police station does not provide adequate parking for our 700 vehicle fleet.
Benefits of a New Police Station
Will meet the needs of our current and future staffing estimates, and reduce the yearly rental costs.
Reduce health and safety risks to personnel.
The new facility will be planned for a lifespan of at least 30 years.
A hurricane rated building will allow our department to provide vital services during a storm.
A new building will have modern communications and crime fighting technology to help better serve our community.
Energy efficiency will reduce yearly electrical costs.
A new building will allow certain services such as evidence storage to remain on site.
A new parking structure will provide adequate storage our entire fleet.
A new police station will improve the overall image of our city. It would be a beacon for the city as it is the first major structure seen when entering the city.
This building will be planned with the community in mind, and some space will be made available for the community’s use. This facility will be constructed on the land currently a part of the Police Department and will not require additional land purchase.
The City of Fort Lauderdale has also provided a summary of its reasoning for the park bond.
This bond would fund significant citywide investments in our parks system to strengthen resiliency, address sea level rise, combat flooding, and mitigate the effects of climate change. Nearly every park in our City would see upgrades and enhancements as new playgrounds, walking trails, pools and splash pads, boat slips and ramps, outdoor fitness equipment, athletic courts and fields, lighting, solar panels and shade structures, pavilions, restrooms, ADA improvements and event new dog parks. A portion of the parks bond funding would be earmarked for signature projects in each Commission District including constructing Tunnel Top Park in District 4 atop the norther portion of the Kinney Tunnel above Federal Highway; rehabilitating Lockhart Stadium and developing the surrounding property to include playfields and upgrade of the stadium in District 1; adding a water playground, tennis courts, sand volleyball courts and a parking garage to Holiday Park in District 2; and building a new community center and other enhancements at Joseph C. Carter Park in District3.
On another note, the Chamber's Government Affairs Committee did not voice support for another item that will be included on the March ballot. It would have done away with municipal primary elections, and in turn extend term limits. Here's what voters will see on the ballot:
Should the Charter of the City of Fort Lauderdale be amended to eliminate municipal primary elections and to provide for municipal elections in conjunction with the general election in November 2020 and every four years thereafter, to provide for the mayor and commissioners elected in 2018 to serve until their successors are elected and qualified following the November 2020 election, and to provide for four-year terms for the mayor and commissioners beginning in 2021?