FREMONT- The Fremont City Council voted Tuesday evening, July 28, to move forward with schematic designs for the proposed Joint Law Enforcement Center (JLEC).
The resolution has given the approval for the architectural group, Police Facility Design Group, to begin working on design development services for the center. This phase of the project will cost $151,252 which will include schematic designs.
The total projected cost for architectural designs is $817,292. The city will be responsible for $432,146 of these designs for the center.
While interviewing councilmember Mark Jensen, he said, “These designs will give good blueprints and documents for citizens to be able to look and understand exactly what will be going into the Joint Law Enforcement Center and how it will be configured. This gives the opportunity for citizens to ask questions, get informed, and then vote in November whether to approve the funding for the project or not.”
Councilmember Brad Yerger did have some opposing views on the project as he believes there has not been enough public input given to the council to move forward with designs on a large project like this.
Councilmember Yerger said, “I wish that we had more robust public input…I think if you want the public to be engaged in this process, then we still need to do more before we decide to spend more money and develop blueprints in anticipation that the public is going to say yes (in November).”
Yerger continued, “We don’t know if the public is going to say yes. We’d be putting detailed blueprints together before we have that assurance and it seems ill-timed to me. I’d like for more public meetings to occur before we expand and enter the development stage and spend the extra money to get there.”
Before the City Council Meeting on Tuesday, the Fremont Police Department hosted two public meetings.
These public meetings included Q&A, the conceptual design for the JLEC, and they offered in-person and virtual tours of the current Fremont Police Department to show which areas were lacking for the police force.
These public meetings were put in place to get opinions on whether the citizens of Fremont were in favor of spending tax dollars on this project.
City Administrator, Brian Newton, said, “The public had the opportunity to attend two public meetings, watch the virtual tour, and they also had the opportunity to send in their own comments via social media, cards, and emails before the July 28 council meeting.”
Of all comments received by the city, there were 61 citizens in favor of the center, 18 who felt negatively about the project, and 24 who were neutral on the project.
A few councilmembers shared disappointment in the lack of public participation in the public meetings and other avenues that were made available for citizens to voice their opinion on the proposed JLEC.
Councilmember Jensen said that the council can only do so much to promote discussion and spread awareness about the project.
Jensen said, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. He continued, “We’ve had meetings…if people are more interested in it I will certainly take more questions, but I think it’s time to put it in front of the people and take it from there.”
Councilmember Legband voiced agreement with Jensen commenting, “We need to move forward with designs. Let’s get as much information out there as we can to show the public exactly what the city would be getting. Show what it’s going to look like, what the rooms are going to be like, and what is going where. This way the public sees it all, so they’re not guessing. We spend a little more money now, so the public knows exactly what they will be voting on come November.”
Councilmember Glen Ellis said with such low community engagement in the public meetings, he was led to create a poll on his Facebook page for residents to voice their opinion on the project.
The poll received 239 responses, Ellis said. Some of the questions included in the poll where support for the project and also where the proposed JLEC should be located. Of the respondents, 64% said they believed the center should remain in downtown Fremont.
Councilmember Linda McClain said, “I think it’s interesting that different surveys have brought different results. I think that’s partly a function of audience. Until we take it to the full voter population of Fremont, I think any survey that the police department does is going to be more favorable to them, and people on councilmen (Glen) Ellis’ social media might be more favorable to his position, or different position.
McClain continued, “I think it’s good to get a lot of data. I was also disappointed in the turn out of the meetings. The bottom line is the voters need to decide. So let’s get the information, and get it to the voters and they will give us their decision.
The council voted in favor of spending the money for design services by a 5-2 vote after approximately 30 minutes of discussion.