City, School District Reach Agreement on Hill Center

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The Lansing School District may soon have a new roommate in the Hill Center on the city's south side.

The City of Lansing announced Tuesday morning it has reached an agreement to move the north precinct into the Hill Center for the next three years, beginning at the end of the summer.

"Why make this move? The bottom line is it's about making the right decisions for the future of our police department," said Mayor Virg Bernero at a press conference. "I think we found a tremendous alternative that meets the needs of the city and the school district. It's good for our police department, it's good for the Hill Center, and it's great for Lansing's south side."

With its lease up at the building at 740 May St., the city had been looking for a short-term lease as it develops its long-term plan for its police department, detention center and court.

The Hill Center offered the space that LPD needed, and the district was happy to shop it around.

"There's no way our district can move forward as the shining star it deserves to be without this kind of partnership with the city of Lansing," said Lansing School District Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul. "Our success as a district is the success of the city and vice versa."

About 86,000 square feet of space sat empty at the Hill Center, though LSD was paying between $150,000-200,000 on utilities for that portion of the building.

The city won't have to pay rent on the space, under the agreement, but will share costs on utilities, snowplowing and grass cutting.

"Currently at the North Precinct, we don't have enough space," said LPD Chief Mike Yankowski. "This opportunity here at the Hill Center will provide our men and women at the Lansing Police Department with the tools, the equipment, the facilities to make sure they can do an effective and an efficient job out here."

The city will spend about $800,000 in renovations, fixing up ceiling tiles, carpeting and electrical work, while installing a workout room, break room and locker room, among other things, Yankowski said. The patrol division, investigative division and crime scene unit will all be relocated -- about 130 people in all.

"This is a home base that will provide them the tools that they need to get ready for their shifts," Yankowski said. "But in the end it's about response times from our neighborhoods. So they're going to be out and about, their response time here is not going to be affected."

That's because these days, officers dispatch from their cars. Computer technology allows them to spend more time patrolling out in the field.

For that reason, Yankowski said, the move will have no effect -- positive or negative -- on response times or crime rates.

"We talk about community policing, this is the foundation of the Lansing Police Department, working side-by-side partnership with the community," he said.

City Council President A'lynne Boles said just having the police nearby will do good things for her ward.

"To have the type of presence that says 'we are in partnership with the south end of Lansing, we're here, we're also accessible,' says a lot," she said.

The proposal has been assigned to the ways and means committee and Boles says she expects it to be approved quickly.

Once approved, the lease would begin July 1, 2014 and run until June 30, 2018. Yankowski said he wants to have everybody relocated by Aug. 31.

Long term, the city is still evaluating its options. It has closely examined the South Washington Office Complex, according to the mayor's office, which says ideally it doesn't want to utilize as much leased space long-term.

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