A 2019 feasibility study that determined the needs of Kerrville's police station, municipal court and fire administration identified three sites and showed how problematic building a public safety complex could be.
After the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ruled that the study could be made public, the city of Kerrville provided the formerly confidential 147-page report to The Lead on Tuesday. The city argued the document should be confidential because it involved potential real estate transactions and values.
The only thing Paxton's office seemed to object to was photos of entrances to the police station and municipal headquarters and ordered those redacted (even though they're in the document later).
Presented to the city in November of 2019, the study identified the current police headquarters on Sidney Baker Street, land on McFarland Drive and land on Paschal Street where the public safety complex could land. However, the costs associated with those locations did not include land acquisition costs. All three of the options also presented significant challenges in other areas, including parking and utilities. Only one option could house police, fire administration and the municipal court.
The battle over the public safety building focused on a citizens group demanding a say in the project. The group collected enough signatures to block a plan by the City Council to issue certificates of obligation to start the project.
A popular narrative issued by those opposing the city plans focused on the timing of the project, suggesting the funding for the public safety building was in the 2019 budget. However, the study wasn't completed until November of 2019 — well after the city submitted its 2019-2020 fiscal budget.
What was determined was the city needed at least a two-story 48,742-square foot building to house fire administration, police, an emergency operations center and a municipal court. The consultants measured space needs by the city's projected growth by 2040 and the growth of the respective departments. The building would house more than 125 employees by 2038, according to the document.
The study's genesis was years in the making. By being presented to the city staff in November 2019, it was already too late to push the financing onto a ballot as a general obligation bond. Three months later, the coronavirus pandemic hit, and then-City Manager Mark McDaniel essentially shelved the plan to focus on the city's COVID-19 response.
In one scenario, architects Brinkley Sargent Wiginton studied building around the current police station — a former bus depot. The city acquired the Sidney Baker Street property in 1995 as a temporary location for the police department.
The plan required purchasing neighboring parcels to fit the proposed building. The multi-phase plan called for the eventual demolition of the current police station. While the estimate was the project would cost $18.4 million, that did not include land acquisition costs or remediation of those parcels. Due to parking concerns, the plan also didn't have the fire headquarters or emergency operations center — something city officials wanted as a way of improving public safety communications in response to a crisis.
Today that Sidney Baker option would be almost impossible because Kerr County swooped in and purchased a vacant parcel to the east of the police station. The county has aggressively purchased land around Earl Garrett Street downtown with certificates of obligation, the same credit instrument denied to the Kerrville City Council by a petition drive.
What appeared to be the top solution for the city staff and consultants was focused on property adjacent to the municipal court and city maintenance yard on McFarland Drive. This plan, estimated at more than $19 million, had issues with land acquisition and parking.
The final option, also the most expensive, was parked along Paschal Street — directly across the Doyle School Community Center. This plan was estimated to cost more than $23 million, would be capable of hosting all of the city's essential requirements and possibly the least expensive land acquisition.
The document also outlines observations for police officers, fire administrators, including current Fire Chief Eric Maloney, and the municipal court. The consensus was the police station was too small for the department, which has not had a purpose-built station in nearly a century — if ever.