The city of Roanoke could be presenting voters with the option of creating a crime control and prevention district in the May 2022 election to help fund a future law enforcement center and court facility.

A December 2020 needs assessment of the police department and court presented to council Nov. 16 highlighted the need for a new center to cater to Roanoke’s growing community and staff. The existing center is described in the report as having “reached a point of diminishing returns and has now become a steady strain on operating budgets and maintenance personnel.”

“We say police are their own worst enemies because they just find a way to make do ... with what they have,” said Don Wertzberger, director of public safety architecture at 720 Design Inc., the firm that oversaw the study. “One little inefficiency creeps into another inefficiency and it almost starts getting embedded to where it's just a natural process in an outdated old facility.”

Growing facility for growing needs

The assessment showed the police department is hoping to add 29 staff positions by 2035 to continue to meet the demand of Roanoke’s growing population. According to the report, Roanoke’s population is estimated to reach between 12,000 and 14,000 by 2035—compared to just under 10,000 in 2020.

The current law enforcement center—a repurposed grocery store—is around 17,500 square feet and opened in 2002. The report states that the current facility poses limits and challenges for current operations, especially when it comes to staff safety and security. The proposed facility would be 58,400 square feet—more than three times the size of the current center.

The new facility would include additional storage, a larger dispatch center, more meeting and conference rooms, a larger training area, and a better separation of courts and police. A new shooting range is also planned. Currently, the Roanoke police department is contracting with the city of Southlake to use their shooting range for training.

“One of the things—where we’re going with training—we’re incorporating not just shooting but [also] de-escalation,” said Police Chief Jeriahme Miller.

The department would be relocated to a 6-acre lot on the corner of Fairway Drive and Park Drive, across from the fire station. However, the property in question has yet to be acquired, said City Manager Scott Campbell.

Miller said the new location in proximity to the fire department is more centralized and would allow for more collaboration and shared resources.

Funding sources

Projected costs for the main building, support building and site is $31.2 million and the shooting range is estimated to cost $6.2 million, for a grand total of about $37.4 million.

City staff recommendations for funding the multimillion-dollar project look at potentially presenting voters with the opportunity to create a crime control and prevention district with a vote in May 2022.

The CCPD would be funded using the city’s half-cent sales tax revenue and would not raise taxes for residents. However, moving forward with a CCPD would require the dissolution of the city's Type B development corporation, since it is not allowed to exceed a 2% sales tax allocation.

Campbell said creating a CCPD would save the city over $1 million in money allocated to the police department from the general fund. Dissolving the Type B development corporation would also add a one-time addition of $9.2 million to the general fund.

If the voters approve the creation of the CCPD in May 2022, then the Type B development corporation would be dissolved and the Type A development corporation would absorb those responsibilities. If the CCPD is denied, Type B would remain.

Campbell said not approving the CCPD would delay the construction of the new law enforcement facility by several years.

Cities can propose a CCPD vote up to five times, according to state statute, before losing all privileges.

Open construction bids are expected to be put out in fall 2022. Once a contractor is selected and groundbreaking takes place, the construction could take between 14-16 months to complete.