Lake Travis city buildings need many upgrades, officials say

The West Lake Hills Police Department building (top) and Rollingwood city administrative building (bottom) are both in need of substantial upgrades according to officials from both cities. (Photos by Brian Rash/Community Impact)

The West Lake Hills Police Department building (top) and Rollingwood city administrative building (bottom) are both in need of substantial upgrades according to officials from both cities. (Photos by Brian Rash/Community Impact)

Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
The cities of Rollingwood and West Lake Hills share a similar problem—their municipal and police buildings are outdated and in need of substantial upgrades.

Officials in both cities are actively searching for solutions, but the path to completion for both is still a long way out. The strategies for both cities are surprisingly similar, as are the facilities needing upgrades. It helps that both cities are for the most part built out, at least to the point that major population upticks are not a factor in solution-finding strategies.

From the needs assessments they have commissioned to the company they hired to conduct those assessments to the options for financing, plans are underway, and big changes for both cities are likely coming within the next year or two.


About two years ago in Rollingwood, officials discovered mold in the police department building attached to City Hall. All of the city’s police staff had to move out and into a temporary building at the same address in a portable building adjacent to City Hall.

The mold not only forced the temporary relocation of the police department, but it also propelled official discussion about what to do about its City Hall, which officials agree either needs a renovation into a more efficient and space-creating design or a complete tear-down and rebuild.

Rollingwood Alderman Gavin Massingill said City Council earmarked $300,000 in fiscal year 2017-18 for facilities updates but ultimately chose to not spend those dollars and instead hired a firm to conduct a professional needs assessment.

“For the upcoming FY 2018-19 budget year, we allocated $315,000 for City Hall and police department facility improvements,” Massingill said. “Those funds will either be directed toward planning or interim construction or a down payment on a larger project.”

After an interview process, officials hired the firm Brinkley Sargent Wiginton Architects in December 2017 because it offered a spatial needs assessment, according to City Administrator Amber Lewis. In September of this year the company provided City Council with several layouts within two options—a total tear-down and rebuild or a partial remodel with a new addition to the existing structure.

Lewis said Brinkley Sargent Wiginton has not designed any final plans for a new building, but its assessment did conclude that for Rollingwood’s administrators, officers and employees to operate effectively, they would need about 8,500 square feet. Currently the police department and municipal building contain less than half that total at 3,780 square feet.

Now city leaders are waiting on a cost assessment for both options from Brinkley Sargent Wiginton, which should come during the Oct. 17 City Council meeting, according to Lewis.

“Here’s the bottom line: We’re either going to spend several hundred thousand dollars for a Band-Aid fix that may last 10 years before more is needed, or we spend several million on a long-term solution that could last another 50 years,” Massingill said. “Both options have pros and cons. But either way, we can’t leave our entire police department in a portable building forever.”

Massingill said there are two funding routes the city could take depending on which option leaders select— cash for a short-term fix and debt for a long-term fix. He added he is not sure how Rollingwood residents will feel about the issue but looks forward to finding out.

“I suspect many of them will have mixed emotions as I do—not eager to agree to long-term debt, but not wild about a short-term fix either,” he said. “At the end of the day it will be the community’s call because our cash-on-hand only goes so far.”

West Lake Hills

There are two buildings in West Lake Hills that require upgrades—the police building and administration building. Officials are in the process of securing a needs assessment for both.

Robert Wood, West Lake Hills city administrator, said City Council reached a consensus during open meetings at the end of 2017 that if the city obtains the needed funding then the police building will be torn down and rebuilt, and at a minimum, the administration building will need to be remodeled and possibly torn down and rebuilt. Wood said that under either scenario the desired end result would be one building.

City documents state that the police department building was built in 1982. Initially administration was on the first floor, and the police department and municipal court were on the second floor. West Lake Hills Mayor Linda Anthony said it was built to residential specs, not made for full-time use nor specifically to be used to house a police department.

A new building was completed next to the original police building in 1991, during which time the municipal court and administration moved into the new facility and the police department expanded into the first floor of the original building. In the last 27 years, several components of both buildings have become outdated, including walkway ramps and a front porch, both of which were condemned and then repaired around 2009.

Wood said there is now an extensive list of problems attributed to both buildings, included but not limited to access issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act, structural problems, mold and heating, ventilation and air conditioning replacements.

About two years ago West Lake Hills officials began a needs assessment for the buildings and, just like in Rollingwood, they were presented with either a remodel or rebuild option. City leaders decided not to go with the company they hired for that assessment, but the data presented are telling.

A September 2017 email from the firm Studio8 Architects to Wood states that if officials wanted to start building by 2019, the city would expect to pay around $2.3 million to $2.5 million for a combination of options.

Wood said that those numbers seem low, and officials are now waiting for the first draft of a new needs assessment for its administration buildings through Brinkley Sargent Wiginton.

“Our building code is tough, and it’s part of what makes our residential area so nice and appealing and so private, but it also has some challenges for us that we’re finding that we will have to deal with,” Anthony said.

West Lake Hills officials have also recently completed a drainage master plan and road repaving assessment. Anthony said the administrative and police buildings are the last piece of the puzzle to the city’s overarching infrastructure overhaul.

Council will likely be looking at a potential bond election in November 2019 to pay for the entire package, she said.

“It didn’t make sense to me to go to the voters and say, ‘We need money for drainage and roadways,’ and not deal with administrative facilities,” Anthony said. “It’s all infrastructure, and rather than go piecemeal, I felt it was best to go all at once.”

Anthony said that a preliminary needs assessment from Brinkley Sargent Wiginton should come in November, and cost estimates for the city administrative building should come at the beginning of 2019.

City Council has already allocated $200,000 into its 2018-19 budget to pay Brinkley Sargent Wiginton for a variety of services, including the initial needs assessment.

Another question in terms of financing involves whether to go after a 20- or 30-year bond, depending on which decision is most economically viable for West Lake Hills taxpayers.

“These decisions will have to be made in 2019,” Wood said. “Because we’ll have to have a number to go to the voters in November of 2019, but the work would likely not happen before 2020.”


Local health leaders are urging caution ahead of Thanksgiving. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Ahead of Thanksgiving, Travis County health officials urge caution

Austin Public Health leaders say gatherings with people outside one's household held indoors and without masks pose the greatest risk.

Harini Logan, 10, won the 66th annual Express-News Spelling Bee at the University of Texas at San Antonio downtown campus on March 17, 2019. For 2021, the event is slated to be held in March at the Brauntex Performing Arts Theatre in New Braunfels. (Photo by Jerry Lara, courtesy the San Antonio Express News)
New Braunfels to host regional spelling bee and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from Central Texas.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan for the state Nov. 23 for a vaccine he said could be available as soon as December. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announces COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan

The vaccine could start being distributed "as early as next month," according to a Nov. 23 news release.

P. Terry’s Burger Stand is expected to open its long-awaited Pflugerville location this January. (Courtesy P. Terry's Burger Stand)
P. Terry's to open in Pflugerville in January and more Central Texas news

Read the latest Central Texas business and community news.

Austin voters approved a $7.1 billion public transit expansion Nov. 3 that will add bus and rail in Austin. (Design by Miranda Baker/Community Impact Newspaper)
After historic public transportation vote, here is what's next for Project Connect in Austin

Shovels won't be hitting the ground on the light rail and downtown tunnel for years, but work is getting started now after Austinites approved the $7.1 billion plan Nov. 3.

Laura Colangelo
Q&A: Laura Colangelo discusses challenges facing private schools during pandemic

Colangelo said private schools have adapted to remote learning and other obstacles in 2020 despite less revenue and a 9% decline in enrollment statewide.

Hamilton Pool Road residents protest outside of Bee Cave City Council on Nov. 10. (Courtesy Nancy Hernandez)
West Travis County Public Utility Agency delays settlement decision on development off Hamilton Pool Road

A lawsuit between the West Travis County Public Utility Agency and the developers of a Provence, a subdivision off Hamilton Pool Road, will remain unresolved following a decision made during a Nov. 19 board meeting.

Festival attendees will have access to augmented reality artworks throughout the galleria. (Courtesy Bee Cave Arts Foundation)
Inaugural interactive light festival coming soon to Bee Cave and more Central Texas updates

Read the latest business and community news from the Austin area.

Schools now have the power to temporarily suspend on-campus instruction if “a significant number of the instructional staff at the campus is impacted due to a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak." (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas Education Agency authorizes schools to close doors for 14 days due to coronavirus-related staffing concerns

Campuses can now instate a hybrid or fully remote instruction model for up to 14 days if adequate instructional staffing is not possible due to high numbers of COVID-19 cases among employees.

Fluff Meringues & More will be featured at The Wayback Cafe & Cottages. (Courtesy Fluff Meringues & More)
Fluff Meringues & More opens pop-up at The Wayback and more Lake Travis-Westlake-area business news

Here is the most recent business news from the Lake Travis-Westlake area.

Kalahari Resorts & Conventions ended its grand opening event with a fireworks display Nov. 14. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Kalahari Resorts & Conventions celebrates grand opening in Round Rock and more top Central Texas news

Read the most popular stories from the past week from the Austin area.

Festival attendees will have access to augmented reality artworks throughout the galleria. (Courtesy Bee Cave Arts Foundation)
New interactive light festival generates buzz in Bee Cave

Nonprofit arts organization, the Bee Cave Arts Foundation is gearing up for its first annual light festival, Buzzfest, which will take place at the Hill Country Galleria.