During the controversial planning stages of relocating the headquarters, neighborhood associations and a Richland Creek watershed group warned the Mayor, Finance Director Rich Riebeling, and former police chief Ronal Serpas that the old Frensley plot was in danger of flooding, but the Mayor's Office ignored the warnings and pushed past the public opposition.
Instead of pausing in the wake of the flood to reconsider, Mr. Riebeling is now suggesting more expensive, environmentally insensitive plans to build a new headquarters on the flood-prone site, even as Nashville accumulates private property that sits on floodplain elsewhere to stop future destruction and even as those plans might violate the Mayor's own green initiative.
Neighborhood leaders are once again organizing to oppose Courthouse foolishness. West Nashvillian Trish Bolian writes GCA News:
As most know, that part of Charlotte was under torrents of water when Richland Creek became the equivalent of a raging river. Buildings on the former Frensley site elected for the relocation of the police needs addressed above were flooded and surrounded by raging water. Almost right next door at Pep Boys, employees and customers had to be rescued by boat and this was on Saturday before the full force of this water was felt on Sunday.
Here is what security cameras inside that Pep Boys caught of the creek flood overwhelming their building:
The first action then taken was to ask for an easement of that area violating the mayor's own Green Initiative and pledge to protect the creeks and waterways! Then the floods. Note: not only is this in the flood plain much of it is in the flood way! Taxpayers are on the hook to spend $10 MILLION more to erect this building! Had the precinct been opened there, police cars would have been totally under water, the building greatly flooded, equipment and computers lost, DNA evidence washed down Richland Creek! Basically the second largest police precinct in the county would have been "down".
Another leader, Kathy Baker, reminds the Metro Finance Director in a direct e-mail that he ignored community warnings:
If nothing else you owe the citizens of West Nashville a debt of gratitude. We got this purchase deferred and later got the creek buffer variance deferred so the building process could not move forward. We knew all along it was a bad decision to purchase this piece of property but you wouldn’t listen. Council wouldn’t listen. If you had your way the building would have been in progress and what construction had been done would have been lost ....
When Richland Creek Watershed came to our meeting and told you about the issues with the creek you said “don’t worry about it, we’ll figure that out as we move along.” In their application to the stormwater committee, the engineers said:
“we have not submitted an alternate plan because we see no option to fully restore the buffer and still provide the facilities required for the new precinct and crime lab.”
Really? No one checked that out? We warned you ....
We showed you maps and pointed out that this property was in a flood plain and what happened? It flooded.
What would have happened if the precinct had been built according to your plans? ....
The people of Nashville would have wanted to know “what were you thinking building a police precinct in a flood plain?” You might be tempted to say (and some have said) – this is a 500 year flood and, chances are, nothing like this will ever happen again. But this is not a 500 year flood plain, it’s a 100 year flood plain and parts of it are in the floodway and it will happen again ....
I’m mad at you for not really listening to us. I’m mad at you for standing in the doorway at our meeting with your arms crossed refusing to come into the room and engage and hear what we were saying. You thought that we were simply upset about the precinct moving away from our neighborhoods, and said as much, when what we were actually saying was that this property, in particular, had not been properly vetted ....
It’s time for you to admit you made a mistake....we don’t even have an architect’s drawing or a budget, stormwater would not give you a variance on the creek buffer (and you shouldn’t have even asked for one), and the place has flooded. We must at least consider the possibility that the precinct should not be built here.
Finally, West Meade leader Mina Johnson appealed directly to Mayor Karl Dean via e-mail:
I ask you if it is truly our best option to build a new West Precinct police station and DNA lab on currently proposed 5500 Charlotte Pike?
We know more that 4.2 million dollars has invested into this location thus far. Regardless is it absolutely our best option to spend another 10 million plus dollars to continue the project on the current location despite of Metro's Floodway and Floodplain buy out plan underway[?]
What exactly has to befall the Mayor's Office before it will start listening to the wisdom of the community and watershed specialists or start abiding by its own green initiatives? What reason outside of sweetheart ties to auto dealer Bob Frensley does Metro have for steamrolling this ill-fated police precinct plan? If colossal floods do not turn Rich Riebeling's boat around what will?