What will Atlanta end up paying for the planned public safety training center?

A new level of outrage has been added concerning the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. Reports this week suggest the city of Atlanta will be on the hook for just over twice the original amount publicly stated. 

The figure which has been widely reported is the nearly $31 million the city will pay upfront to build the center, while the Atlanta Police Foundation will be footing the remainder of the more than $90 million. However, the deal is a little more complex than that.

Council member Liliana Bakhtiari says the whole process has been opaque and confusing.

"It doesn’t feel like it’s been a transparent process," Bakhtiari said. "I am also very unclear about the funding. All I know is that the public was advertised one thing and now it’s come out that this is the case." 


Less widely reported is the resolution passed by the Atlanta City Council in December 2021 which deals with paying the APF for a loan the organization took out as part of its fundraising efforts. The city agreed to pay the APF $1.2 million annually for 30 years. This does mean, ultimately, the city of Atlanta will be on the hook for $67 million instead of just the $31 million taxpayers originally thought.

When asked if taxpayers would be on the hook for $67 million instead of $31 million, Bakhtiari answered: "Yes. It appears that is the case over the course of the next 30 years."

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This image shows a rendering of an academic classroom at the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. (City of Atlanta)

Bakhtiari, who sits on the finance committee, voted not to fund the center.

"This was the brain-child of the last administration. We’ve inherited something that has been mishandled from the very beginning in terms of messaging, in terms of community engagement, in terms of public trust," she said.

The mayor’s office says the payments are considered revenue neutral and could even save the city 15% on training costs over the next 30 years, amounting to nearly $6 million. They say the city currently pays more than $1.4 million a year currently for all first responder training. 

The mayor’s office also says its current leases are also at the whims of the market, which currently is extremely hot in Atlanta. So, having a fixed-rate would ensure the city is not paying anything more.

Bakhtiari said city leaders did a poor job of explaining the funding break-down and process overall to the public. 

"People feel misguided, people feel confused," she said. 


When asked why the price tag seemingly jumped suddenly, council member Michael Julian Bond responded: "This was in the original ordinance we passed, that there would be a lease-back provision."  

Bond said the $67-million price tag was part of the original plan and once the 30-year lease is over, the city will take over full ownership of the training center.

"I know that’s not how the public is going to see it," he responded. "And that’s a huge gaff, and that should not have happened."

Bond admitted city council should have done a better job of fully informing the public of the total cost for the city’s contribution to the center. 

"Given the huge mistake, we still have to make this investment. It’s still necessary for the future of Atlanta," Bond said.

The overall cost for the training center has not changed. That remains at $90 million.

Last week, the finance committee voted 5-1 to approve a plan for Atlanta to pay its share of the more than $30 million.

Committee member James Winston abstained and Committee member Liliana Bakhtiari was the sole "no" vote.

Still, most in favor of the center say it is a much-needed facility which fulfills a multitude of needs, and fills the gaps of the training needs the city currently doesn’t have the capacity to handle.

The next full council meeting is slated for Monday, June 5 at 1 p.m. with additional budget meeting, including public hearings over the two days following.

The funding measure is expected to pass.