For more than three decades, the city of Fayetteville’s 911 call center has operated from the same space at police headquarters downtown.
Over those 30-plus years, the population has grown and communications technology has evolved. For those reasons and others, city officials say, it’s time for modernization.
Updating the 911 center and several city fire stations are important keys to providing public safety in Fayetteville, city officials said Friday as they led reporters on a tour of city facilities that they hope will benefit if voters approve a three-part bond package in a November referendum.
Reporters toured the 911 center, Fire Station No. 2 in Haymount, and outside the Fayetteville Police Department.
Along the way, the theme for city officials leading the tour was how a $97 million bond package could be spent to address public safety, infrastructure and housing needs.
“There will be three separate questions on the ballot,” said Jodi Phelps, a city spokeswoman and chief of staff. “The first will be public safety for $60 million. The second will be public infrastructure, which is streets and sidewalks, for $25 million. The third question will be $12 million in housing opportunity initiatives.”
Phelps said the public safety needs are “relatively self-explanatory.”
“There’s a list of possible projects that we have available,” she said. “Those have been prioritized. Those are long-identified needs.”
At the top of the list are several fire stations that need to be replaced, upgraded or expanded, Phelps said. Also important, she said, is a new police communications center.
“I think those projects go to the heart of being able to provide public-safety services to residents who may need them the most. (The 911 center) is the first call — the first line of defense that deploys our first responders," she said.
The 911 center at police headquarters has been in use for 32 to 33 years, said Lisa Reid, manager of 911 communications.
“We handle all the calls for the city of Fayetteville,” Reid said. “When we came over, I’m sure they didn’t expect us to stay here that long. We’ve expanded our space. We started smaller. We don’t have room for expansion.”
Reid said the current Emergency Operations Center is about 5,600 square feet, and she would like to at least see that space doubled.
“It’s time for us to modernize,” Phelps added. “Especially in advance of hurricanes, the 911 center has to continue functioning.”
The bond package could pay for a brand new 911 center, Reid said.
“We’re talking about building from the ground up,” she said.
Several fire stations could be prioritized for upgrades, Phelps said.
The City Council will decide what projects will be funded should the bond packages be approved in November.
Plans for infrastructure improvements include streets, sidewalks and connectivity, Phelps said.
“We have street resurfacing pavement plans that have been done. This $25 million will go toward our street resurfacing and pavement preservation projects because people want their potholes fixed,” she said. “It will go to sidewalk improvements. We have a pedestrian plan that has been in place that tells us where sidewalk gaps exist.”
The goal, Phelps said, is to make the city pedestrian-friendly.
Plans also include the opportunity for more bicycle lanes.
"We want to make sure that transportation and mobility are throughout the city," she said. "Funding will likewise go to safety and security for the residents and also make Fayetteville attractive and a nice place to live."
The city maintains about 750 miles of roads, according to Byron Reeves, the stormwater manager for the city. The infrastructure bonds would allow the city to accelerate its resurfacing program, he said.
Lee Jernigan, the city traffic engineer, said the bond money would provide that five years' worth of sidewalk plans could be accomplished at one time.
About $7.5 million of the proposed $25 million for infrastructure would go toward sidewalk construction, Jernigan said. That would encompass about 15 miles at a cost of roughly $500,000 a mile.
“It really is across the city,” Jernigan said. "It would not fill the total need. It would focus on thoroughfare streets and connecting gaps between sidewalk openings.”
The money also could pay for intersection improvements, he said.
The housing initiatives “really goes toward driving the economy in the region,” Phelps said.
The city has identified three main areas of interest:
Development of single-family and multifamily homes that might come in the form of incentives for builders and developers.
Support for the city’s homeownership programs.
Rehabilitation of neighborhoods, which would allow many families to “age in place” and not be pushed out of the housing market.
“This is really to create housing opportunity for all residents,” said Phelps. “A housing study we have recently done said we need 20,000 (affordable) units in Fayetteville to meet the housing needs. … Certainly, it might not address all the needs of Fayetteville, but it will really accelerate our ability to move forward.”
Should the bond packages be rejected, she said, the projects would remain priorities. But they would come at a higher cost down the road, she added.
Phelps said city officials have estimated a savings of $2.5 million using general obligation bonds rather than traditional financing.
Phelps stressed the investments all tie into safety, security and economic growth for Fayetteville.
“And it moves us forward,” she said. “It really helps us accelerate our ability to address these really long-identified needs. Every one of these possible projects has been noted as a council priority, a staff priority and, importantly, are at the top of the list every time we do a residents survey. Residents tell us these are the things we want you to invest in.”