Millions unspent for police HQ repairs

January 14, 2010 1:06:41 PM PST
Action News has learned that there is part of a solution in place to make repairs and improvements to the Philadelphia Police headquarters, and yet nothing is being done about it.

We first brought you the report Monday night on Action News at 11:00.

At the Roundhouse, the city's symbol of police power, there is mold on the ceilings, holes in the walls and cramped offices.

Broken toilets and cockroaches can be seen at other police stations.

RELATED STORY: Read the original report

Since we got our first look inside Philadelphia's tattered police buildings, the Mayor's administration has maintained a commitment to do something about it--anything--even if it means finding, in the mayor's own words "creative ways" to track down money to make badly needed repairs.

"In some instances, I think the things that you've highlighted maybe things that we can take care of here in the near term. Many of our facilities, for instance, are just lacking a good paint job. Many need much more work, there's no question about it," said Mayor Michael Nutter.

But as we found out, some of the money is already there. It has been for years, but very little has been spent.

"It is shocking to me that even though the city council approved, and bond money was borrowed for the specific purpose of repairing police facilities, virtually none of that money has actually been spent for the intended purpose," said Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz.

Action News has learned that, in 1995, the city's financial oversight authority authorized $13.5 million for rehabilitation of police facilities. To date, though there is a dispute between agencies about how much of that has been spent, all agree it is no more than $1 million.

Fast forward to 2007 when, in the wake of a report by the city controller, city council members authorized $10 million additional for repairs. Of that, council sources say, not a dime has gone out the door, with neither former Mayor John Street nor Mayor Nutter choosing to spent it, so far.

All of that adds up to $23.5 million set aside for repair of crumbling police buildings since 1995, yet just 4 percent of it put to use.

Why?

Simply put, no one we spoke with seems to know.

Its a fact Butkovitz says is unacceptable.

"What is the excuse to not use the money? There's no argument that that level of repairs is not called for. In fact, the argument seems to be that this would be a drop in the bucket," he said.

Mayor Nutter, who was a city councilman when the $10 million package was approved, promises new projects are planned, and, according to his office, they are now finding ways to spend the 1995 dollars.

But, the mayor says, spending it wisely takes time.

"The bottom line is, from whatever different funding sources, we will figure out to improve our facilities, but as I said earlier, in some instances, some of those buildings need to go away and possibly new buildings need to be built. Or, find another building, rehab it, and bring it up to the standard that is appropriate for our employees," he said.

Even $23 million won't go all the way to fixing all the problems we saw, some of them serious health risks.

So what about stimulus money?

The mayor tells us the stimulus cash so far set aside can't be used for that purpose, but that he would look at all options, including applying for more. So far, the controller's office says, just $700,000 of the city's 100 million stimulus dollars have been spent.


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