After nearly 10 years of planning, the city of Sunset Valley is about to break ground on permanent facilities for the police and public works departments as part of its $8.5 million City Facilities Project.
Although the project has evolved over the years, Mayor Rose Cardona said the need to move the police and public works staff out of portables has never been debated and has been part of the larger plan since the current City Hall was constructed in 2005.
“It’s a blip in the news for Greater Austin, but for Sunset Valley, an $8[.5] million project that creates permanent buildings for police and public works is huge, and it was needed,” Cardona said.
On April 18, Sunset Valley City Council voted unanimously to approve the final site plan for the project. Given the constraints of the site, located at 3205 Jones Road, three variances from the city’s land development code were permitted by council regarding parking, tree removals and water quality.
City Administrator Clay Collins called the approval of the final site plan a “significant milestone.”
“The approval of] the site plan means we have accomplished all of the city code requirements regarding the overall site, not just the buildings,” he said.
While planning for the project, city staff and architects were able to adhere to Sunset Valley’s maximum allowable amount of impervious cover—meaning no more than 18 percent of the total property’s footprint can include human-made surfaces impenetrable by rainfall.
Don Greer, the project’s manager and vice president of Brinkley Sargent Wiginton Architects, said it was important to the city to respect the environmental sensitivity of Sunset Valley, which is built over the Barton Creek Recharge Zone of the Edwards Aquifer.
The most substantial legwork of the City Facilities Project is construction of permanent facilities to house the police and public works departments, which have both operated out of portables for over five years.
“The current facilities are not adequate from a functional, space or safety standpoint for both department’s employees,” Cardona said.
The existing public works garage will undergo a full renovation, according to the site plan.
Necessary site improvements will also be made, including a continuation of City Hall’s circular drive to meet Jones Road, more outdoor storage for public works and police equipment, as well as additional landscaping, parking and sidewalks and the addition of new water-quality treatment features.
According to the site plan, an 8,986-square-foot building will be built just west of the existing City Hall facility to house the police department. Currently, 13 full-time officers and one administrative assistant work in the department; however, the new facility will allow for some growth in staff, said Lt. Rich Andreucci, interim police chief.
Among the most significant features of the building is a sally port, or a secure garage that allows police officers to safely transport detainees from the garage into the holding and booking areas.
Greer said building security was a priority in planning for the police department.
“If you pick up somebody, you never know how that will play out, so you have to make sure your process provides for the safety of the officer and the community,” he said.
The police department staff is looking forward to the security of a permanent space, Andreucci said.
“Having an actual building with stone walls and proper doors would help make our administrative staff feel quite a bit safer,” he said
The police department facility will also include a large training and emergency operations wing, which is located at the right side of the building and has its own entry point. Greer said the layout was configured to accommodate a mixed-use component, allowing other city staff members to reserve the wing for meetings without walking through the police department.
The biggest improvement, Andreucci said, is the ability to store more case files and reports on-site.
“We will be able to hold a few more years’ worth of reports at the police department than we currently have room for,” he said.
Public works building
The future public works facility, according to the site plan, will be built just east of City Hall and will have a total area of 4,961 square feet.
Greer said in planning for the public works facility, the architects made sure to include a considerable amount of conference and laboratory space. Several rooms for storage of materials and drawings were also sketched into the plans.
Katy Phillips, public works and environmental services director, said the permanent facility will reunite administrative and management staff with technicians, the latter of whom currently office out of the public works garage.
“It will give us a better chance for communication,” she said.
One end of the building, Greer explained, will accommodate the public aspect of the department’s work and will include a spacious conference room and lobby. Offices for the technicians, inspectors and supervisors will occupy the opposite wing.
“[The new building] will give us the opportunity to grow if we need to add positions and will give us access to amenities we don’t have now,” Phillips said.
According to Collins,
the original cost estimate for the city facilities project was $6.9 million. The city’s finance committee identified funding sources from the city’s general fund and additional sales tax revenues, which was approved by City Council.
“We would take a large amount of money out [of the sales tax reserve fund] for those projects and then replenish it over a 10-year schedule,” he said.
The most recent cost estimate for the project is $8.5 million. No action has been taken to identify how the remaining $1.6 million would be acquired; however, Collins said there are still available options within existing city funding sources. He also said some costs can be distributed over time, easing the financial burden on the city.
Final refinement of the project’s drawings and specifications is currently underway, Greer said, and is slated for completion in late June.
Construction manager Chasco Constructers will then attain subcontractor bids so a guaranteed maximum price can be brought before City Council in August, Collins said.
Once the cost is approved by council, Collins said the 14-month construction timeline can begin. Weather permitting, the project is slated for completion in late 2018.