The city of Roanoke is in initial talks with neighboring Keller to partner full-time on animal and jail services to improve efficiency, officials said.

If an interlocal agreement is reached, it would optimize resources and services—something Keller City Manager Mark Hafner said is the reason for pursuing this.

“We only [implement] these regional [agreements] not only to save money but to improve the services,” Hafner said.

Unincorporated areas or smaller cities sometimes turn to neighboring municipalities for assistance if they do not have enough residents to sustain a fully outfitted city department by themselves or if it leads to cost savings, Roanoke Assistant City Manager Gary Johnson said.

For example, Roanoke has paid Keller to use its animal shelter and jail on a limited basis since 2012. This saves taxpayer dollars in facility construction and staffing costs.

Roanoke takes people arrested on Class C misdemeanors to the Keller jail for processing and holding. The city will pay a per-prisoner charge of $215 for this service in fiscal year 2019-20. Roanoke officers take more serious offenders to the Denton County jail, which does not accept Class C offenders.

Under this agreement, Roanoke pays Keller a fluctuating annual amount depending on the number of prisoners, Johnson said. In recent years, Roanoke has paid Keller varying amounts, from $21,000 to nearly $40,000. It saves thousands of taxpayer dollars each year, according to Johnson’s estimates.

“If we were going to have our own jail in Roanoke, the minimum personnel cost a year would be about $300,000 just to staff it, and then, you’re going to have to build the building and everything that goes with that. ... We’re paying them a lot less money than what it would cost us to do it ourselves,” Roanoke City Manager Scott Campbell said.

Roanoke also relies on Keller’s animal shelter. It will contribute payments of $110 per animal for FY 2019-20.

The two cities recently began discussions on whether to pursue a full partnership to improve efficiencies. It would ensure bed space and could potentially make for shorter processing times at the jail and improved coverage for animal control services.

“The person that we have who does animal control is a full-time [police] officer, and we could use them for other things,” Johnson said. “If someone else was picking up dogs, she gets to focus more on the full-time police officer [responsibilities].”

Roanoke, in turn, would make a higher annual payment to help run the jail and animal shelter, Hafner said. These discussions are still preliminary, and final costs are still being calculated to see whether a full partnership is financially feasible, Campbell said. It could take three to four months before a decision is reached.

“I will not have a willingness to recommend this [to City Council] if it costs a tax increase because we [already] have good service now—it’s just a matter of, ‘Can it ultimately be a better package?’” he said.

History of cooperation

Bigger cities are typically the ones providing services to partner cities because they tend to have more resources, said Fernando Costa, Fort Worth assistant city manager. They recoup the costs as smaller cities pay for rendered services. Fort Worth, for one, offers its neighbors a multitude of services, including hazardous waste disposal, fire protection and road construction.

Keller has been collaborating with other cities since 2002, when Westlake approached with a request for police services, Hafner, who was Keller’s police chief at that time, said.

“In 2002, Keller desperately needed more patrol officers in North Keller,” he said. “I and the city managers of Westlake and here in Keller saw this as a great opportunity to add more police officers to Keller but at the same time giving Westlake ... a full-service police department because everyone knew that growth was coming on the horizon to Westlake.”

As a result, Keller hired six additional officers and increased its police presence in the north. Westlake, on the other hand, became able to benefit from Keller’s public safety services. The arrangement is still in place today, 17 years later.

Over the years, Keller has expanded its network of partners and merged its emergency dispatch center and jail with those of Southlake and Colleyville, Hafner said.

“We know how many radio transmissions were done by the police cars in Keller versus Southlake versus Colleyville, so we have an elaborate matrix set up,” he said.

For FY 2019-20, the combined costs of Keller’s animal control operation, jail and dispatch services total nearly $2.7 million, according to official documents. Keller is only responsible for $548,991. The remaining $2.15 million will be covered by Southlake and Colleyville. Those two cities each pay an annual rate based on usage from the previous fiscal year.

Keller also has an agreement with the Humane Society of North Texas. The nonprofit manages the animal adoption center, which saves the city about $100,000 annually by eliminating the need for staffing, according to Keller’s estimates.

Roanoke has its own set of interlocal agreements. Denton and Tarrant counties, for example, pay the city for fire protection and emergency medical services.

These agreements are not about profits, Campbell said. They allow cities to share resources, save taxpayer dollars from use in major capital expenditures and improve services for residents.

“At the end of the day, I think it’s all about providing services—even if it’s not in your city,” he said. “You want to help because it’s just good for the region.”