New Kyle PD building could come with tax hike

Kyle’s police department could return to the November ballot as much needed upgrades are coming with a heavy price tag – and a possible tax increase.

Kyle City Council is in a tight spot budgeting for a new or newly upgraded police headquarters as survey results came in Tuesday night from architectural firm Brinkley Sargent Wiginton Architects.

On July 15, two representatives from Brinkley Sargent Wiginton Architects presented several designs to suit the needs of the police department, which currently needs at least 10,000 more square feet to meet spacing needs for this year.

Kyle’s current department sits in an 8,000 square foot building, which does not satisfy the department’s needs for general storage, evidence and dispatch. The designs presented ranged from two $4 million plans to add storage room to $18 million and $20 million plans that meet the department’s current and future needs for at least the coming decade.

Council members voted to remove the $4 million plans after a motion from council member Daphne Tenorio.

Tenorio, despite push back from Mayor Travis Mitchell, successfully removed the two items from the array of choices the council will be able to consider in future discussions.

“I’m not willing, any longer, to keep our employees working in subpar buildings,” Tenorio said. 

The vote to remove those two options passed 5 to 2 with Mitchell and council member Rick Koch as the dissenting votes.

Mitchell said he supports upgrading the department’s facilities, but is looking for an option that would not trigger a tax increase nor more bond debt. Mitchell said the two lower-cost options were the only two options that would prevent a tax hike.

“People are asking for lower taxes, better jobs and better roads,” Mitchell said. “They also say they want better public safety. I’m trying to find a way to help solve the police department’s needs (but) putting a $20-million-dollar bond and a corresponding tax increase and credit rating effect has significant opportunity cost for other departments.”

The police department has been an issue on the dias for several years and has been moved to and from various vacant buildings. This time, the department’s needs are being put up against other similarly priced projects including a $20 million wastewater project and another project with the Alliance Regional Water Authority (ARWA) to provide services to the city, according to City Manager Scott Sellers.

“Each of these projects, including the police department, are imperative to the city,” Sellers said. “But the bill for those two projects are coming up in 2020 and soon after. Water for the city and its residents comes before anything. The council will be determining how they can take care of it all, if they can.”

Sellers said the council might consider pushing the police department upgrade to avoid the tax increase, which would have to be voted on by residents in a bond election. According to Sellers, the cost of the project might be more feasible in two to three more years as the city’s bond capacity could increase with time.

In the meantime, staff has resurrected a draft for plans to put Kyle City Hall in Plum Creek and is waiting on direction from council to consider a plan for placing Kyle City Hall in Uptown. Moving Kyle City Hall is included in some of the plans with KPD occupying current city hall and its current building if city hall was built elsewhere.

The council asked the city’s lawyer for permission to hold further discussion in a private executive session, but likely will not receive it due to the public nature of the issue. The council will continue the discussion at the Aug. 5 meeting.

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