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The proposed police and fire training center in Atlanta is projected to cost taxpayers more than double the initial estimate of $31 million, according to city officials. The administration of Mayor Andre Dickens has revealed that a provision in the city's lease agreement with the Atlanta Police Foundation will add approximately $36 million to the overall cost of the $90 million complex.
Known as a "lease back," this provision requires the city to pay $1.2 million annually for 30 years to utilize the facility. This expense is in addition to the $31 million already allocated by city taxpayers for the construction of the training center, as confirmed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The revelation of the increased cost comes after the Atlanta Community Press Collective reported the additional financial burden. In 2021, during Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' administration, the city had initially indicated that it would either pay $30 million or agree to the leaseback option. However, the lease approved by the Atlanta City Council holds the city accountable for both payments.
According to Atlanta Police Department spokeswoman Chata Spikes, the lease payments are considered "budget neutral" as they utilize funds already earmarked for police and firefighter training. Spikes stated, "The City currently pays other entities to use facilities that are not designed for public safety training. The Atlanta Public Safety Training Center will provide an opportunity for AFRD and APD to conduct joint training, an Emergency Vehicle Operations Course, adequate classrooms, and community access, including quality greenspace. After the lease payments, the City of Atlanta will own the facilities."
The training center, colloquially known as "Cop City," is set to be situated on the site of Atlanta's old prison farm in unincorporated DeKalb County. The location has become a focal point of ongoing conflicts between authorities and left-leaning protesters who are demonstrating against various issues, including police militarization, advocating for environmental protections, and expressing opposition to corporations perceived to be supporting the project through donations to the police foundation.
DaVinci Development, the project management company hired by the police foundation, has announced that a soft opening of the facility is scheduled for the end of 2024. Members of the Atlanta Police Department, city officials, and other project stakeholders recently provided a media tour of the site, showcasing areas where pre-construction work has already begun.
As the true cost of Atlanta's police and fire training center emerges, public scrutiny and debates surrounding the project are expected to intensify. Taxpayers and community members will closely monitor the progress and financial implications of this controversial undertaking, weighing its benefits against the increasing financial burden on the city.