New city police department must be carefully planned and overseen

Published 6:44 am Saturday, July 11, 2009

By Staff
The city of Washington has its challenges these days, as do many small towns in America.
A nagging recession has only exacerbated the glaring weaknesses of our local economy (think vacant downtown buildings, struggling businesses, and outlying merchants such as Goody’s that recently closed).
And city government, itself, isn’t immune to the recession and ongoing economic turmoil. Budget restraints are a significant factor in this upcoming fiscal year that will limit what the city can accomplish.
Given that reality, though, the city has managed to approve spending more than $4 million for a new police station. Overall, we believe it will be money well spent.
The council adopted the budget ordinance Wednesday night giving the project a total projected budget of $4,365,000. The council hopes to borrow some of that funding and get other money from grants, so only $1 million of the funding has been appropriated.
City Manager James C. Smith said the move will give the city a foundation from which to apply for a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan to help fund construction.
From our viewpoint, the Washington police station ranks second only to the Beaufort County Detention Center in needing major attention. The detention center’s a mess, the police station simply tiny and outdated.
But you have to start somewhere, and the police station is a more viable project at this point.
Though the money has been approved, the city must guard against rushing the project to completion just to show it could be done. The police station must be as technically innovative as possible and be up to date — and able to be expanded — well into the future.
City officials must oversee the project — with expert help from police department executives — every step of the way. The money the city appropriates from its own coffers and is able to later raise must be used wisely.
We applaud the city for having the initiative to try and push this project through.