First responders are looking to keep pace with increasing demand due to population growth and recent land annexations by building new stations to improve response times.
The Conroe Police Department is building a new police headquarters with the intent to complete the project by March 2016. In addition, a Lake Conroe fire station was recently renovated by the Conroe Fire Department, and plans for new fire stations are on the horizon.
“[Area growth] has increased the number of calls we respond to, and that’s a challenge,” said Ken Kregar, fire chief for Conroe Fire Department. “We have less time to do training and maintenance. We have to be more efficient with our time management.”
Conroe’s population has grown from about 56,000 residents in 2010 to 71,592 in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Part of the growth is due to several annexations finalized in December that totaled 5,312 acres in land acquired by the city, Kregar said.
The Conroe Police Department has experienced growing pains at its headquarters, which was built in October 1999 and also houses the city’s municipal court, Lt. Jon Buckholtz said. The 38,000-square-foot facility does not have the capacity to function as the headquarters any longer, so a new law enforcement complex is under construction at 2300 Plantation Drive.
Construction of the $26.5 million complex began in January and will include space for both the police headquarters and municipal court. The building is expected to be move-in ready by March 2016, Buckholtz said.
“We’ve grown leaps and bounds since we moved into this building along with [Conroe’s] population growth,” he said. “Obviously the department has needed to grow, too. When we moved in we weren’t sure if it was built with enough anticipation for growth, and we didn’t have a clue the city would grow as fast as it has. It’s like guessing the weather.”
The new 76,000-square-foot building will allow the department to consolidate personnel by accommodating those who previously worked at satellite spaces and will feature officer training space, a larger courtroom and a common gathering room for the community, Buckholtz said.
City officials have not determined a future use for the current building, located at 700 Old Montgomery Road, Conroe, he said. With the additional space, Buckholtz said he hopes the new station will accommodate growth for an estimated 25 to 30 years.
“It should make a visit to the police department or municipal court more efficient and comfortable,” he said. “The consolidation of personnel will also make visiting a unit or officer easier than having to go to more than one location.”
Conroe Fire Department
The Conroe Fire Department acquired the Lake Conroe Fire Department Station No. 31, at 15663 Hwy. 105, in December as a result of annexation.
Since then, the facility has been renamed city of Conroe Fire Station No. 6 and has received $181,000 in upgrades and remodeling, said Conroe Assistant Fire Chief Paul Sims.
“When the station was originally built in 1996, it was designed to house about five to six personnel,” Sims said. “When we purchased the station and moved in at the end of 2014, we [planned to place]eight personnel in the station with the future potential for one more to be added.”
The former dormitory area and a storage room were transitioned into two separate dorms that can sleep four in each section along with two new restrooms and a locker room to provide space for all personnel, he said. An old office was turned into another dorm, and the kitchen and dining room received modern upgrades. All changes were made without adding square footage to the facility.
Sims said the department expects to build a new station within the next five years near the intersection of League Line and Longmire roads.
“The growth in general has created a need for an additional fire station to be added to our organization,” he said. “The department continues to function as we did before. We have just added some resources.”
Montgomery first responders
While the city of Montgomery Police Department has no immediate plans to expand into additional facilities, the Montgomery Fire Department has its eye on a future station west of Ron’s Keenan Road Grocery on Keenan Cut Off Road, fire Chief Brian Edwards said.
A new station on the two-acre tract would help reduce response times and improve the department’s Insurance Service Office rating, Edwards said. An ISO rating ranges from 1 to 10, with 1 as the highest score, and indicates a department’s ability to provide fire protection to residents. MFD’s current rating is a 4.
Because of funding challenges, though, constructing a new facility could take years to come to fruition, Edwards said. [polldaddy poll=8980957]
“We are actually an [emergency services district]that does not have a sales tax [revenue stream], so we are a little behind in the funding of that station,” he said.
Montgomery County ESD No. 1
Fire Station No. 94 was built about one year ago at 13701 W. FM 1097, Willis, by the Montgomery County Emergency Services District No. 1. The ESD covers about 165 square miles of north Montgomery County, including the cities of Panorama Village and Willis. The station features a fire engine as well as direct access to Lake Conroe for a fire boat.
“We can walk out of the station and be operational on the lake in minutes,” said Jason Oliphant, ESD No. 1 fire Chief. “Before, we would physically have to drive from the fire station to the boat. It speeds up our response time to calls that are on the water. It could be boating or swimming accidents.”
Additionally the department is designing the future Fire Station No. 95 about 5 miles east of department headquarters in Willis near FM 2432. Station construction could be sent for bid by the end of the year, Oliphant said.
“We are placing these stations strategically throughout our area to better serve our community and improve our response times,” Oliphant said.
Additional reporting by Jesse Mendoza