WR approves funding, location for new police headquarters

WARNER ROBINS — The City Council voted 3-2 Monday to build a new police headquarters in Perkins Park, sparking a heated exchange about the surprise motion, the location and the structure’s price tag.

The council also voted 3-2 during its precouncil session to fulfill the full projected $9 million cost of the project with SPLOST funds.

Councilmen Clifford Holmes Jr. and John Havrilla, who voted against the moves, said they felt ambushed by the vote. Holmes, who has said he plans to run for mayor, went a step further, saying the move was calculated because of the upcoming election.

“The mayor has pulled in and gotten to these councilmen,” he said of the move Mayor Donald Walker has publicly supported. “It’s a favor for a favor. They’re putting on a big show, and the public needs to know it. There seemed as though there was a sense of urgency with (the motion).

“I might be 200 percent wrong, but that’s the perception of it.”

Havrilla also said there was an agreement among the council to not make major decisions while members are absent. Both Havrilla and Holmes said they were certain councilman Terry Horton, who was missing from Monday’s meeting, would have voted with them, which would have forced Walker to vote to break the tie.

Walker denied having a political motive.

“That’s very small of him to say something like that,” Walker said in response to Holmes’ comment when reached by phone after the meeting. “This has nothing to do with politics. I didn’t even vote because Terry Horton was not present.”

Walker said $5 million in SPLOST funds was allocated in 2006 for a new police headquarters. But the project has been slow to get going, council members said. A firm, J&M Architects in Perry, brought the council a plan for a $10 million structure in late 2008, which was rejected. The council in turn proposed a $7.5 million budget and a new design was submitted a month later. Holmes said there has been no discussion since.

“It’s not something we need to sit on the next council,” said Councilman Bob Wilbanks, who made the motion. The current police headquarters “is atrocious, and we owe our men and women in uniform to do something about it.”

A big point of contention was the proposed location. Perkins Field and a nearby playground would be destroyed to build the new headquarters. Perkins Park is located on Mulberry Street, just off Watson Boulevard and located near the Homer J. Walker Jr. Municipal Complex. “When we talk about police, the building should be functional and it can be in another area and serve just as well,” Havrilla said.

“I am certainly for it,” Walker said before the vote.

Walker said in addition to the $5 million already approved for the structure, the rest would come by pulling $2 million each from water and sewer project SPLOST funds.

“Now we have a $9 million project,” Havrilla said. “And I will predict it won’t end there.”