City Council focuses on SWAT, parking garage debate

$27,000 in forfeited funds will be allocated to Columbia SWAT for tactical equipment.
Planning and Development Director Tim Teddy informs the Columbia City Council on the six-stage process MU will take toward developing a comprehensive city plan during the council meeting Monday night. The council agreed to the contract between MU and Columbia with a narrow 4-3 vote.

In the last City Council meeting for First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz and Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser, Mayor Bob McDavid questioned the confidence the city has placed in Walker Parking Consultants by entering into yet another agreement for a parking garage to be built at Broadway and Short streets.

"We don't have the money to build this garage without raising parking fees," McDavid said.

When he passed through the newest 10-story parking structure at Fifth and Walnut streets, McDavid said he noticed that only five metered spaces and 65 permit spaces are being used.

"Out of 700 parking spaces, they were all empty," McDavid said.

McDavid said he was surprised to find a $9 million budget and a preference for retail space.

"I don't have confidence in the design team that built the last parking garage," McDavid said. "It's probably more important to me that it looks right than have 500 spaces."

McDavid supported the agreement in the end, with the condition the garage design has a large amount of guidance and input from the council.

Nauser agreed with the plan to go ahead with the parking garages in accordance with the development plan of the city. The support of the parking agreement set the parting message from Nauser during her last meeting: to look toward the future through planning and development.

"While there may be unfilled space now, they will be there for the future," Nauser said.

Council members also debated the use of forfeited funds to purchase defensive police equipment for the Columbia SWAT Team. Equipment such as a ballistics shield and night vision gear is needed to elevate the Columbia force to a Type 2 team. The New York Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department are examples of Type 1 teams, according to Chief Ken Burton.

The $27,000 in funds caused disagreement because of a perceived conflict of interest. Forfeited funds are seized items from criminal raids and arrests, which are allocated by a local or federal judge.

"The state of Missouri has a law where assets for forfeiture funds are to be appropriated to education," graduate student Holly Henry said. "I feel like it's a moral hazard."

Several other members of the public spoke against the forfeiture funds being allocated to the police department. But because the federal government had awarded the $27,000 directly to the police department, the point was moot. The allocation of funds toward the purchase of new equipment to update the SWAT team was approved.

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