It’s a long, long time from ever happening, so we’re not going to make any definitive statements at this point, but we are skeptical about the need for a new city public safety complex — especially if it’s going to be moved out of downtown.
Tulsa World reporter Kevin Canfield broke the news that city officials are starting to talk about consolidating police and fire administration facilities in one building. The space would also hold municipal courts, a 60-bed city jail and city emergency operations facilities.
One spot under consideration is the former State Farm campus, constructed on 45 acres north of the Broken Arrow Expressway between Garnett Road and 129th East Avenue. It’s a nice space... and closer to the middle of Broken Arrow than the middle of Tulsa.
We appreciate some of the concerns driving the idea. Many of the city’s public safety functions are currently located in the Police/Courts Building, 600 Civic Center. It’s a quirky building and more than half a century old. City planners would love to see a big hotel go into that area. The fire department is headquartered at the department’s old Newblock Park training complex. The building is aging and in the floodplain.
But the spaces are serviceable, and while public safety is a priority for the city, that generally doesn’t mean comfortable offices in a suburban setting for the brass. At least, that’s not high on the list.
One commenter said that it’s hard to imagine providing a new home to the police and fire departments when thousands of Tulsans have no home at all. It’s an interesting point that focuses on what should be the city’s highest priorities for improving the quality of life in Tulsa moving forward.
The State Farm location is problematic. Good logistics dictate that the police and fire chiefs and the emergency operations center should be located in the central business district with the mayor and City Council. Locating the city jail and the municipal courts in on the southeast outskirts is a significant burden to people who live in other parts of the city. It would mean more unproductive time for police officers and miles on their cars to transport prisoners.
The city’s highway system and business patterns define that police, fire and emergency operations leadership and the city jail belong downtown.
We want the State Farm property filled as much as anyone, but not with public employees. A government takeover of that space would remove another high-dollar property from the tax rolls, which is a disservice to the public schools.
This isn’t an issue that will soon be decided. The city only has a general idea how much the project would cost, and there’s no funding on the table. To state the obvious, any funding sent that way is funding that couldn’t be used for other projects.
It’s more dream than reality at this point and it would take a lot of public discussion before it ever moved forward, which is good. Because, right now, we aren’t convinced.