After weeks of increasingly intense controversy surrounding Mayor Karl Dean’s proposals for a new police headquarters on Jefferson Street and a new jail in southeast Nashville, the Metro Council removed funding for both on Tuesday night.
In southeast Nashville, area Metro Council members complained that they had been left out of plans to relocate sheriff’s office operations and a jail to a piece of Metro-owned property on Harding Place. As in North Nashville, neighborhood opponents organized, and at a council public hearing last week they submitted a petition with more than 1,000 signatures asking the council to reject the plan.
The $113 million plan to consolidate Metro’s jails and Davidson County Sheriff’s Office operations on a piece of Metro-owned property in southeast Nashville (a piece of property where there already are jail facilities) had riled residents in the area and council members. That controversy has even led to accusations of misconduct in the sheriff’s office. And Tuesday night an amendment to remove funding for the plan passed on a 19-17 vote.
Tuesday night, Erica Gilmore rose and asked the council to support her amendment to remove the funding for the police headquarters.
She noted that the council would still have the ability to put it back in, but said she felt it needed to be taken off the table before there could be more discussion with the community.
“I want us to work with the community and not do things to the community,” she said. “I think if you say we’re going to put it here and you keep on moving, you keep on moving forward, even though you say you’re not, it gives the appearance of ‘we’re still going to move forward, we’re not going to listen to you.”
At-Large Councilman Jerry Maynard, who had been a vocal supporter of the planned headquarters, urged the council to leave the funding in the budget, reminding them that the language in the plan did not specify a location on Jefferson Street. But it was too late.
Support for keeping the headquarters in the budget evaporated, with council members who might have voted against the amendment declining to oppose Gilmore on a project in her own district. The amendment passed and the headquarters was defunded.
According to Gilmore this isn’t the end. She just believes there should be more community meetings discussing the headquarters proposal.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s not dead,” she said. “I think we need the discussion. There are deeper discussions that need to be had and probably if we had those on the front end it might not have turned out to be so divisive.”
Sheriff Daron Hall made this statement after the decision was made Tuesday night:
“Tonight’s council vote to remove funding for the relocation of our operations to Southeast Nashville was a very important decision for our city. As we have said, doing nothing about the conditions and long-range future of our downtown facilities is not an option. The issues at the Criminal Justice Center are well documented and need serious attention now. My hope is that the serious problems we face will remain at the forefront as a new mayor and city council take office later this year.”