DANVILLE, Va. – Danville city leaders are planning to leverage a proposed casino deal to pay for a new police station, though not all voters are ready to roll the dice.
During a city council meeting on Tuesday, council members agreed to move ahead with a $17 million dollar bid from Blair Construction to build a new police station and renovate a historic building on Memorial Drive.
The new police headquarters is something city manager Ken Larking said the department desperately needs.
“They are cramped in the space we have right now. We often don’t pass our security audits because people can practically just walk right in and walk into the police chief’s office,” said Larking.
However, funding the station depends on whether or not voters pass a ballot referendum in November to approve a new Caesars casino at the old Dan River Mills Schoolfield site.
Larking said the casino deal is the only way the city could afford to build a new police station without raising taxes or making cuts. He said the multi-million dollar opportunity is hard to ignore.
“There’s a chance that there could be a significant source of revenue to the city," said Larking.
Mount Hermon Baptist Church Pastor Steve Chromy grew up in Minnesota where he says a casino in his hometown did more harm than good.
“They prey on senior citizens, on the young, the addicted," said Chromy. "It’s legalized stealing.”
He, some other pastors and concerned citizens started the group ‘Defend Danville’ to oppose the casino. Chromy worries about drunk driving, increased EMS calls, gambling addictions and suicide.
“People losing their money, losing their marriages, losing their jobs and homes," said Chromy.
If voters say no to the casino, then the police station deal is null and void and it’s back to the drawing board.
“I’m not advocating for how people should vote. That’s really up to them on which way they want to vote on this referendum," said Larking. “But without that, I don’t know how I would pay my bill without having further discussion with council.”
If Danville leaders can’t find a way to fund a new police station, that project may not go forward.
City officials must wait to see how voters decide on the casino referendum ballot on November 3.
The city has posted information and studies about the impacts the casino would have on the area on its website.