ROGERS -- The Police Department got the green light to spend an additional $1.4 million on the new emergency dispatch center.
"This portion of the project on the new building has to do with the tower that all of our radio equipment and antenna sits on and the support building that sits immediately south of the tower which is an existing facility that's been there since the campus was built," Police Chief Hayes Minor told the City Council on Tuesday.
"We are taking the opportunity to harden a room within that building that houses several million dollars worth of radio equipment in order to protect it in the event of a catastrophe and as part of that hardening we had to create a specialized piece of equipment that allows the wiring from the antenna to pass through the hardened portion of the structure into the equipment room."
The dispatch center is under construction on South Dixieland Road next to the Police Department. Voters approved the project in 2018 as part of a nearly $300 million bond issue, which included $11.5 million for the Police Department. The money for the additional work approved unanimously by the council on Tuesday will not come from the bond and will instead come from the Commercial Mobile Radio Services fund, which is generated by cellphone bills, Minor said.
The council also voted 4-3 with council member Betsy Reithemeyer abstaining against rezoning about 9.6 acres west of North 40th Street and south of West Olive Street from highway commercial to neighborhood commercial at the request of Tallgrass Development.
Several council members said residents of neighborhoods around the land in question told them they were against the rezoning, mainly because they suspect apartments will be built on the land.
Most developments require developers to submit plans to the city that must be approved by the Planning Commission, but not the City Council, before construction can begin. Property owners do not have to say what exactly they plan to do with the land or submit any building plans to request a land rezoning. David Matthews, an attorney representing the request, repeatedly pointed out the new zoning would bring the land into compliance with the city's comprehensive growth map, a guide for the city's desired land zones that the council approved. He also said there are no specific plans for the land, and the property owner may sell the land.
Council members Clay Kendall, Gary Townzen and Jerry Carmichael voted in favor of the request, while council members Marge Wolf, Mark Kruger, Barney Hayes and Mandy Brashear voted against. Reithemeyer did not vote because she works at Matthews' law firm, she said.
"The property owner does have rights, and what he's asking for is within the constraints that this council has established, so it's hard for me," Kendall said. "I realize there's some people that don't want it, and I have empathy for those folks, and want to help them any way I can, but I just don't feel like we're in a position where we can accommodate one neighborhood out of city of 60,000 when the property owner has the right to develop this property."
Brashear later said, "There are other voices that don't have legal representation that have strong opinions on this too that we have heard from, so I would just encourage all fellow council members to not let one citizen or two citizens' voices overshadow the others that have spoken out as well."
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