The Madison Police Department addressed the controversial delaying of the Midtown police station construction during a Board of Estimates meeting Wednesday.
Holding one of the largest individual agency operating budgets, MPD highlighted its goals to complete the Midtown police station — whose construction has been delayed since 2008 — and address increased violence with the help of the 2017 Operating Budget.
But Mayor Paul Soglin said there are aspects of the Midtown police station project that do not make sense to him.
The main arguments in favor of the new police station are growing police responses, increasing space for police officers and accounting for the possible annexation of the Town of Madison to the city of Madison.
Jay Lengfeld, the north district captain for the MPD, said there is only one team at the west district. With the addition of Midtown, he said their workload could be cut in half. He said the purpose of the decentralized model with smaller populations could increase outreach.
He said the west district station was built for 54 employees, however, that number has risen to nearly 100. Lengfeld mentioned the possible growth issues with the attachment of the Town of Madison.
Soglin said whether the station is in this year’s budget or next year’s budget, the timing of the construction would have nothing to do with the annexation.
Lengfeld said it is important to start considering the increase in the number of police officers and citizens that could be added with the addition.
“There isn’t just one reason to build Midtown,” Lengfeld said. “There’s a large number of reasons.”
Lengfeld said one of the districts has gotten so big that the MPD cannot provide the level of service they would like.
Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, District 1, said her constituents are concerned because they do not have an established relationship with the police officers in her area. She said the city made a commitment to build this station but have been debating it since 2008.
“I don’t know why we’re still discussing it. It makes me really anxious that we find ourselves in this predicament,” Harrington-McKinney said. “The community has said that that’s what they want and I think that we as policy makers need to honor that.”
Harrington-McKinney said when talking about quality of life, the police station would be more than just a building.
She said it will allow the police department to reallocate the service area and allow the person assigned to the west district become more connected to the community.
“We as policy makers have that responsibility to give all individuals a better quality of life, black, brown, it doesn’t matter who it is,” Harrington-McKinney said. “We all have a right to have a good quality of life and I’m very frustrated that we keep going back and forth with this.”