by ANDY SEVILLA
Kyle police will soon have a new home and more breathing room.
For six years the police department has been cramped in the old post office building on Center Street, which once housed City Hall. Now officers will be able to stretch their legs in a newly renovated bank building, though temporarily.
Assistant City Manager James Earp said the police department could move as soon as year’s end to the Wells Fargo building, just behind City Hall. The building is currently going through about $70,000 in renovations, including new permanent walls, painting, re-staining of wood and cabinetry, replacing fixtures and appliances, running electrical outlets, sealing the roof and outer perimeter of the building, among other things.
The city council approved the construction contract with Spawglass Contractors Sept. 4 for $72,810, and the contract calls for construction to be completed within 60 days.
The new police headquarters also is set to receive between $40,000 to $50,000 in new modular furniture, Earp said.
“For right around $120,000, I guess, we’re going to build to add a substantial improvement to the police department,” Earp said.
And the $120,000 is a far cry from the $15 million dollar police department city staff presented to council for consideration on a bond election that would have been put before voters in November. The bond election, which later focused only on roads was derailed during council deliberations.
Earp said the $15 million dollar facility came from a need assessment study conduced by Brinkley Sargent, a design firm that suggested Kyle was going to need a full-scale police department with holding cells and an indoor shooting range, to accommodate growth and space for the future.
After council shut that idea down, city staff went ahead with plans to secure the Wells Fargo building’s use for cops, instead of additional growth space for the municipal court and finance department to operate out of, as originally intended.
City Manager Lanny Lambert said his goal is to have cops housed in that building for about five years, before asking citizens to approve a new facility specifically designed for the police department.
“Police departments have their own unique needs that are different than other buildings,” Earp said. “Mostly related to security, access, interview rooms for victims of crime, also being able to protect their weapons and evidence.”
Police Chief Jeff Barnett said the new police home is “exciting, and will lift morale in the department.”
After the city green-lighted funding for the building of the new City Hall, a fire department on Bunton Road, a public works building, and a new library, the police department was next on the list, but that realization never came to fruition.
“The police department was the next one up that should have been up for getting a new building built for them to accommodate their new modern workforce,” Earp said. “But, we had change of opinions on council, we had economic slowdown and all these other types of issues – plus the city had issued a lot of debt in order to pay for 1626 and Kyle Parkway and interstate improvements and a lot of money that the city spent on state roads and projects that has brought us the Target, the HEB, the Seton Hospital, all those types of things – so there was a general backing off of spending additional debt service on another building. It just so happened that, I believe in my opinion, the police department just happened to be unlucky in the sense that they were the next one up for a new facility whenever that happened.”
Though the Wells Fargo building is undergoing a face-lift to get the cops in there, the building still houses asbestos.
Earp said the city was going to do the building’s renovations in-house, but after an asbestos report on the building found the potential cancer-causing fibers in the walls and floor, the city then decided to hire a professional contractor to do the job.
Earp said the report found asbestos in the mastic below the tile floor and in the dry wall in the building’s walls.
“(The asbestos) wasn’t deemed as a hazard for inhabitability or for use,” Earp said. “A lot of the buildings that we’re in today… have asbestos in them. It’s a matter of whether it’s a risk or not. And as long as it’s not crumbling, as long as (the asbestos) isn’t airborne, it’s not a risk.”
Earp also said that although he can’t recall a mold study being done on the building, he wouldn’t be surprised if mold was found in it. He said old HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) units presently in the building are bound to have leaked, as well as the roof, thus increasing the potential for mold.
“There probably is some mold, every building has mold in it, it just depends on how much,” Earp said. “But part of this construction process would be, those types of things should be found and taken care of as we’re doing the construction.”
Earp said part of the construction contract is to rehabilitate the HVAC units on the roof, seal the roof, and seal the outer perimeter of the building. The Wells Fargo Building was infested with crickets, and some could still be seen dead this week.
Earp said the current police department is too small for their needs. He said it was a natural move for them in 2006, from the old VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) building, when there were about 13 police officers. But now, with a department of about 50, of which 36 are sworn police officers, Earp said the police department needs more space.
Lambert said the police department’s dispatch will stay behind at the current headquarters because “it wasn’t cost effective to move the expensive wiring and equipment.”