What you need to know about Lakeway’s police station bond proposal

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Following a stalled 2010 attempt to gain more room for the city’s growing police staff, Lakeway is finally set to let its voters decide the issue May 6.

The $23 million bond election centers around a new 31,000-square-foot police facility that Police Chief Todd Radford said will serve the city through 2043 when Lakeway is expected to be built out at an estimated 25,000 residents.

“This is a functional building that will provide basic police services for 25 years,” he said. “It gives [police officers]the personal space they need to be able to function appropriately and the professional space they need to do their jobs as [the department]evolves in the coming years.”

History of bond referendum

Lakeway, through a third-party consultant, performed its first needs assessment for a new police facility in 2010, a time when the area’s economic recession prohibited moving forward with any plans for a new station, said Dave DeOme, chair of the city’s Justice Center Citizens Advisory Committee.

However, in early 2015, the issue was presented again to City Council, and a new needs assessment was performed. Council members created a committee to investigate whether a new police station and a new court facility were warranted. The committee reviewed Lakeway’s own buildings as well as six other police stations and courts around Central Texas.

“Our court facility is very adequate compared to other court facilities we looked at,” DeOme said. “What we do need is a new police station.”

The committee made a recommendation in June to City Council for a new police facility. Council responded with an approval and a requirement for staff to get a better idea of the costs and the building structure for the new station before putting the issue to a vote by residents.

“The people in Lakeway are not going to vote for or give you a blank check when they don’t know what [the police station]is going to look like or what it’s going to cost,” DeOme said.

The city hired architecture firm Brinkley Sargent and Wiginton to provide renderings and a facility plan; and Spaw-Glass to establish a cost for the project. The costs incurred by Lakeway for these transactions totaled $304,000, an expense the city may not recover if the bond does not pass in May, DeOme said.

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Need for space

The biggest deficiency [in the current Lakeway Police Station]is space,” DeOme said.

The city has seen a steady increase in the volume of police calls with 19,600 in 2016, up from 17,899 in 2015 and about equal traffic stops in 2015—at 11,441—compared to 2016—at 11,341, Radford said. In 2016, 511 people were arrested in Lakeway, he said.

“As these numbers continue to grow, we need manpower to deal with those issues,” he said. “Right now, we have about 24 people who can respond on the patrol side of the house out of 34 police officers. We’re going to have to keep pace because the call volume is going to go up.

“What’s going to happen with Bee Cave as they continue to grow? The city of Austin as they continue to push their borders out west? Travis County as they continue to develop around us? Because crime has no boundaries.”

The advisory committee found—and Radford confirmed—the current 7,000-square-foot police station is inadequate because the facility:

•is without a detention area for suspects, who are instead chained to a bench in the center of the building;

•lacks evidence and storage space;

•does not have an interview room, including a space for juvenile suspects;

•lacks adequate locker space for the amount of officers in the department and the size of the lockers are too small to house police vests; and

•is without a secure parking lot, leaving department and officers’ vehicles open to be targeted for criminal acts.

Constructed in 1981 as a multiuse municipal building, 7,000 square feet of the 9,000-square-foot facility was converted to police use in 2006, but DeOme said the site was “never intended to be a permanent fix” to serve as the city’s police station.

According to federal guidelines, two full-time police officers are suggested for every 1,000 residents. The proposed facility is designed to hold about 75 staff members at the city’s final build out, a tally that is consistent with other police departments in Texas, DeOme said.

DeOme said most police buildings are designed to accommodate one to two square feet per resident, starting with a building that is roughly two square feet per resident.

“As the town grows, that ratio drops to one square foot or less,” he said.

At 31,000 square feet, Radford said the intention is for the police department to “grow into this building and not ask the public at some future date to build another addition or to build another building.”

Building cost calculated

The proposed building will cost $13 million, $411 per square foot based on the cost to produce the facility in 2018, the year the building is anticipated to be constructed, DeOme said.

The committee found the cost of the police stations studied were, on average, about $421 per square foot, he said.

Out of six possible sites including a tract off RR 620 near the city limits, staff chose a site at the corner of Lohmans Crossing Road and Lohmans Spur. The bond incorporates $1 million to extend Lohmans Spur and enable the new facility to have a sallyport—a covered driveway that provides security for entering and exiting suspects in police custody.

“Five of those six [possible sites]had challenges when it came to topography or they were in a floodplain or there were electrical easements going down the middle of the property,” DeOme said.

A majority of the property sought for the station—4.9 acres—is owned by the Lakeway Municipal Utility District but is under contract to Legend Communities to be developed as the Lakeway City Center and include housing, retail, offices and a possible performing arts center. A smaller section of the proposed tract—2.5 acres—is privately owned, and the total site cost is $1.4 million, he said.

Radford said the department was seeking a centrally located site so officers can easily reach a collision no matter where it may occur within the city.

The proposed site has an 18-foot drop the architects accommodated in their proposed station design that presents some cost additions, DeOme said. A second, more expensive site was reviewed but the committee determined it was smaller and would not provide enough space for the police building design, he said.

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Not signed on the dotted line

DeOme said the city has not yet purchased the proposed project site from the developer, an issue that concerned residents at the city’s first project open house March 21.

“I don’t have a lot of confidence in the city managing this construction project,” said Don Walden, the developer of Falconhead in Bee Cave.

The Lakeway resident expressed concern over the delays to complete the city-managed Hamilton Greenbelt renovation project as well as its lack of an enforceable, written contract for the proposed police station project before voters go to the polls in May.

“The question for me is you don’t have the land secured,” Walden said. “You have to be real careful about that.”

DeOme said the city has set a price for the proposed tract with the developer under a verbal agreement.

“Between the MUD and the developer, they had signed another separate contract that addresses this piece of land, so I think we do in fact have the land,” he said. “If we had [purchased]the land first, we would end up having to spend a million dollars or more to get that [land]before we even start [the project].”

The city and developer signed a letter of intent covering the property April 5, said Bill Hayes, Chief Operating Officer of Legend Communities, whose company has many ongoing projects in Lakeway. This document serves as a precursor to an actual contract, laying out the terms of the agreement, he said.

“There is nothing in our interest to pull a fast one, to take away this land,” Hayes said. “It’s just bad business. We were giving the city leeway to not be obligated for something that may not be passed on by the voters.”

2 comments
COMMENT
  1. Kathleen Nelson

    I am incredibly disappointed in Community Impact’s reporting on this bond measure. You have allowed yourselves to be a mouthpiece for the City of Lakeway. You will not find one person in Lakeway who denies that that police need a new station — and badly. That said, however, I find it reprehensible that the city refuses to factor financing charges into the cost of the bond measure, and, moreover, Community Impact’s refusal to ask about it.

    At the town hall meetings, one of which I attended, Former Mayor DeOme claimed that they wouldn’t know what the financing costs were until the bond was passed and they went shopping for them. He even refused to give people a range of what those charges may be, citing the same excuse. It’s ridiculous to think that the city doesn’t have some basic idea of what kind of credit score it has and what interest rate it would get when it took the bond to market. As a result, we don’t know the full costs of the bond, yet they’re happy to tell everyone that it will only increase property tax valuations by an average of $10.27 per month per household. That is a flat out lie. How can they claim that without knowing the financing costs?

    I want the police to have what they need. Everyone does. We understand what they’re up against, and Police Radford and his staff deserve the resources to do their job properly. But this is not good, transparent governing, and to pass the bond measure would only ensure that the City of Lakeway will never have to provide it.

    • Leslee Bassman

      Kathleen,
      Thank you so much for reading our story!

      I consulted former Lakeway Mayor Dave DeOme, who also serves as chair of the city’s Justice Center Citizens Advisory Committee, regarding your concerns about including financing charges in the bond’s cost analysis.

      DeOme said the range of interest charges his committee estimated for the bond is from 3.25 percent for 25 years to 4.48 percent for 30 years. He said the group “used the most conservative [financing] number” when calculating the average homeowner’s monthly cost if the bond is approved at $10.27. That is, DeOme said the $10.27 average monthly tax bill increase for residents includes the highest plausible scenario for financing at 4.48 percent for 30 years.

      “The $10.27 is for the most conservative scenario which is 4.48 percent,” he said. “The $23,065,000 is the principal for the bond. When you get a mortgage on a house, you apply for it. We’re getting a mortgage but we call it a bond. We don’t know what the interest will be. We assumed it would range from 3.25 percent for 25 years up to 4.48 percent for 30 years. We don’t know what the interest rate is because we haven’t sold the bonds.”

      At $44,508,000—the amount of the bond principal and interest at 4.48 percent for 30 years, the total average monthly cost per resident is $10.27, DeOme said.

      If the bond passes and the city can get a 3.25 percent interest rate for 25 years, he said the average resident’s monthly cost for the bond drops to about $9.24. Any scenario other than a 4.48 percent interest rate for 30 years will lower the average resident’s monthly payment, he said.

      I hope this answers your question.
      Thanks again,
      Leslee Bassman
      Editor, Community Impact Newspaper, Lake Travis/Westlake

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