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SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker is backing off an idea that sparked a firestorm of opposition. On Wednesday he said, "Today, I'm announcing that the public safety complex will not be on Library Square."
The announcement means the open space on the east side of Salt Lake's Library Square will stay as it is. At the same time, the mayor says the effort to build a new police and fire headquarters will continue.
It was because of almost unanimous and vocal opposition to the Library Square option. Mayor Becker says that came through public forums, letters and phone calls to his office. He said the city received about 400 comments on the plans.
Becker says he opened the idea up, listened to feedback and came to this conclusion. He said, "What I have heard loud and clear, in this past month, is that this is such value to the community that we should not be touching Library Square as part of our decision to go forward with the public safety complex, and so I'm responding to that."
One of the people leading the charge is now relieved at the outcome. Former City Council member Deeda Seed said, "Mayor Becker really listened to the public, and that he's done the right thing, that he's responded in the way we hoped he would, and that's what you want from an elected official."
Today, I'm announcing that the public safety complex will not be on Library Square.
–Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker
Other site options will now be investigated include: the block on the east side of 300 east, the parking lot near the Chamber of Commerce building, the lot where the Ken Garff car dealership is and a few others. Becker says they will take all the suggested sites back to the public for input. The next public hearing is on June 16 during the City Council meeting.
He says he hopes the new site they pick after public input will be supported, but he says, "There's will always be opposition."
The Salt Lake City Police Department is in desperate need of replacing its headquarters, which have been described as "dilapidated" and "an earthquake trap."
Police Chief Chris Burbank hopes to move forward on a new site. He said, "We have to weigh every option and make a determination for what is best for public safety in the community we serve."
He added, "We have outstanding, both police and fire personnel, that will rise to the occasion of anything that comes to Salt Lake City."
Becker says he is not sure if the Library Square debate will affect the bond vote. He said, "There's always a big risk when putting something before the voters."
Becker says they are still looking at a $125 million price tag for the building.
The mayor and city officials are confident they can lock in a site and have public hearings in time to put the bond on the ballot this November.