UPDATE: This post was updated after I was assured the in camera meeting mentioned in the original post did not have anything to do with the police station or the fairground property.
Not to bite the hand that has fed me for the past nearly three decades, but we in the media are funny creatures sometimes.
Take Monday night’s Belleville city council meeting for example.
At that meeting,
CAO Rick Kester told council an RFP could be ready for council approval regarding hiring architects to look at the sites being considered for a new police station by its August meeting, following which the media breathlessly raced to report this “newest development” in the ongoing police station saga.
And yes I include myself in this group, although in my opinion I was a little less breathless in my reporting than some of my colleagues.
Here’s the thing: right now council is looking at, as Mayor Christopher called it, two-and-a-half sites for the new building, namely the current Veridian building and the Ben Bleeker property, although council is also now considering what could possibly go on the west side of Sidney Street at the Fairgrounds property as well (that would be the half at this point.)
BUT, and here is what we all breathlessly reported, once this “newest development” happens, then council will have advanced to the point where …. they are considering two and half sites for the new police building.
The only difference being in August they will get to make a decision – on which firm will be hired to provide them drawings and costs estimates on the three potential sites.
To be clear, council will only decide which firm will provide the drawings and estimates, they won’t actually have the drawings and estimates. Nor will they actually be any closer to narrowing down the choices.
This is what passes for news when it comes to a police station: councillors receiving a report that says in eight weeks they may get to hire someone to provide them more information that may help them make a decision on where to build a police station. Someday.
So what, exactly, was all the excitement about?
In fairness to the ink stained wretch crowd, of which I am proudly – or in this case guiltily, – a member, given the lack of progress regarding the police station, we in the media can be forgiven a little bit for jumping on any little tidbit of news and running with it like it was a four-alarm fire.
Kind of like the way dogs or dolphins will jump through rings for a little piece of food if you make them hungry enough.
Of course, that trained beast will occasionally find little extra morsels lying around if it does its tricks well enough and long enough.
Like a little nugget Mayor Christopher dropped after the meeting.
In the course of talking about the police station, the mayor mused that the agricultural society could make council’s decision mute by pulling out of negotiations with the city and, in the mayor’s words, telling the city to “go build your police station somewhere else.”
Normally I would dismiss this as just off the cuff chatter at the end of a long and difficult council meeting.
Except this nugget has a great deal of relevance to the whole issue of the police station because it clarifies something kind of left out of the discussions to date, namely that the ag society — not council — could in effect determine where the next police station goes.
If the ag society walks away from negotiations with the city, the city builds at the Veridian site because council has voted to narrow the discussion down to the two (and a half) site. Theoretically council would need a two-thirds majority vote just to open up discussion to even consider another site.
Otherwise it’s Veridian, not because it’s the best site necessarily but because it will be the last site standing.
And that would mean the city spent almost five years – it was January 2011 when then-mayor Neil Ellis first suggested it – getting basically back to where it started.
Like the story reported earlier this week, none of this is really news.
But unlike the earlier story, this is at least something to think about as we breathlessly await the next morsel of information about the police station to come to light.