Kyle selects firm to educate residents about bond election

The Kyle City Council’s selection of a public relations firm to promote a November bond election for a new police station should signal to the community the urgency of the need.

Council selected the Austin-based firm of Buie & Company on May 19. The contract is for a base amount not to exceed $75,000 to provide “community education and engagement.” The task force charged with recommending a firm also suggested adding a $10,000 contingency fee, which was also approved.

Mayor Pro Tem Rick Koch, who was a member of the task force, and council member Dex Ellison, who was not, were both optimistic about the prospects of the bond passing, even given the uncertainty still clouding the future because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“No doubt about it, there’s a level of unease and uncertainty surrounding the economic impact, but I think that’s pretty much across the board nationwide,” Koch told the Hays Free Press.

“We have to decide as a community where we are. I think Kyle is in position to rebound quickly. We’re in a growth market. When dollars start flowing again the areas they’ll flow to most quickly are growth markets.”

Ellison noted that the journey to the bond election actually started in the summer of 2018, when he, council member Alex Villalobos and Mayor Travis Mitchell toured the crammed quarters police now operate out of.

After that, “we had a really frank discussion about the status of our police facility,” Ellison said.

So far, the city has spent more than $200,000 on temporary fixes. Initially, the idea was for a bond election in 2019 but they decided to put it off a year to, in Ellison’s words, “do our due diligence and get our ducks in a row.” Also, he said voter turnout would be higher in a Presidential election year, giving the city a clearer idea of what residents want.

Koch noted that there’s no dollar figure attached to the bond election yet but that engineering has been paid for and land acquisition is underway — which makes this election different from the 2015 one approved by voters for a variety of road projects. “I think at the end of the day we’re looking at mid-$30 million, but it will be a police station they will be able to grow into for three or four decades.”

Both men said they believe voters will get behind the effort.

“I want to make sure when this thing goes to ballot voters are as informed as they possibly can be,” Ellison said. He stressed that Buie & Company will be limited to an educational campaign because tax dollars can’t be used for an “advocational” campaign. “The next step is to sit down with them and really get our ducks in a row,” he said, adding he expects the company to “hit the ground running.”

“The message from the people was we’ve done enough shifting of our police department around,” Koch said. “We’ll find out come November if we got the right message … We are expecting a ‘yes’ vote. If they say ‘no’ we will go back to the drawing board (but) I don’t foresee that happening necessarily.’

Because of all the work already done, Koch said he believes dirt could be turned in about two weeks after the Nov. 3 election, and the new facility could be complete in 14 to 16 months. He said the residents of Kyle deserve to see something happen quickly.

The only roadblock he sees is if the coronavirus situation takes a big turn for the worse. “Unless the economy gets unbearably bad with the economy and job losses locally, something that’s just not sustainable. The beauty is, we have until November.”

In an update to the council prior to the vote, Police Chief Jeff Barnett said the task force had received 15 “well written” responses from firms hoping to serve as construction manager at risk to oversee construction.

“We received, reviewed and scored them and conducted interviews with the top three candidates earlier …. The next step is to negotiate a contract,” he said, something he hopes to bring for council consideration during its first meeting in June.

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