To hear council members describe it, the feedback they're getting from constituents on the proposed new police station on South Swan Street is akin to the decibel level in a library reading room.
In other words, if the public has anything to say about it, they're not saying it to members of the Batavia City Council.
Which is why the council is going to invite the public to a meeting Nov. 23 where feedback and input will be invited on the proposed $10-million investment in a new building to house police officers and the activities that support their public safety role.
"If only two or three people show up, that also sends a message," said Councilman Eugene Jankowski. "If people are upset, they'll probably show up. If they don't show up, that's almost acceptance. There is a thought, silence is acceptance. If they remain silent and see that path we're going (on), I only have to assume that they're happy about it."
The proposal for the location of a new police station came from a council-appointed task force that studied a dozen or so options, gathered financial data, considered the topography, traffic patterns, security and proximity to city activity before arriving at the plot of land on South Swan where the Wiard Plow Factory once stood as the best available location.
The entire process and final selection has been broadly publicized in local media, but apparently, to council members, that hasn't prompted a lot of public feedback.
Jankowski first raised the concern during Monday's meeting that before spending $10 million there should be some sort of process for the public to weigh in on the decision, and since it isn't the kind of matter that goes to a public vote, the council unanimously backed the idea of a public meeting.
City Manager said the meeting will be publicized just as if it is an official public hearing, though it isn't that, either.
Councilwoman Kathy Briggs argued in favor of moving the process forward as quickly as possible rather than, once again, "kicking the can down the road."
"It's time to put up or shut up," Briggs said.
"Then I'll shut up," snapped Councilwoman Rosemary Christian.
Christian expressed reservations about backing a new police station because paying for the bond might require an extra 2-cents per thousand in property tax and Christian doesn't believe Batavia residents can handle any further taxation.
She also expressed concern about potential runaway costs.
"What if we get into this and it costs $20 million instead of $10 million?" Christian asked.
Molino explained that the bulk of the costs -- material and labor -- is pretty easy to calculate before construction starts, so it's hard to fathom that kind of runaway expenditure. The one unknown expense for the South Swan property is environmental cleanup, but there will be a detailed assessment done before the city acquires the property, so that cost should be known before the project receives final approval.
How the project will be paid for remains an open question. The council is eager for Molino to explore grant options, though grant opportunities are limited for this sort of project. To the degree bonds are required, they will be issued at a time when existing bonds are being paid down and paid off, freeing up cash flow to help finance this project. Molino also floated the idea of fashioning a unique arrangement that would involve a private developer owning the property and the building and leasing it to the city, which could save taxpayer money, avoid any interest payments and give the city the option to buy the property at the end of a 30-year term, or build a new station if needed.
Some council members expressed concern that a lease could saddle a future council with a tough decision about how to deal with a police station situation.
Whatever options the council should consider, Jankowski said he would like to hear what city residents think, and he hopes some voices will be heard at the Monday, Nov. 23, meeting.
"If they want us to move in a certain direction, like, say, merging with the Sheriff's Department, the public needs to express that opinion now and then that's something we will explore," Jankowski said. "Rignt now, I'm hearing silence. We're moving toward a new building. I'm hearing silence, so I would assume we're going in the right direction."