DALLAS -- Dallas officials are asking voters to approve money to build a new police station and remodel the fire department.
Last August, city council members debated the merits of asking for money from citizens during tough economic times.
Councilors were concerned that the public wouldn't see the need for new facilities, or worse, think the city was trying to compete with schools for finite funds. In the end, they voted 8 to 2 in favor of asking citizens to support a bond levy.
"We don't want to be seen as going against the schools," Mayor Jim Fairchild said, "It's important that the people understand that."
According to the information sheet provided by the council, a professional review panel deemed the current police and fire stations inadequate. They both fail to meet service and safety standards.
Currently, city police are operating out of a building that is a quarter the size of what they need. They are forced to share cramped desk space, and often times must conduct confidential interviews in the hall.
The fire station, built in 1972, is not as out of date and cramped as the police station, but it fails to meet earthquake standards and is inadequate for the size of the department's service area.
The fire station remodel would meet earthquake standards and would add two new equipment bays. The expansion would also include a new Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that could serve as the center of city operations during emergencies.
The estimated cost for the new facilities is $4,158,000. The bond levy would cover $3,950,000 of that and the rest would be covered by Homeland Security grants.
If approved, taxpayers would pay about 50 cents per $1,000 of of assessed property value for the next 21 years.
According to information provided by the city, "this would mean the owner of a property with an assessed value of $125,000 would pay $62.50 per year, or just over $5.00 per month."
"The council hates to place a levy in front of the people, cause we recognize that the economy is tight right now. But we have some real needs that must be met. So, we decided to place this in front of the voters and see if they agree with us...If they don't, we won't ignore the problem, but any fix we come up with will be nothing more than a Band-Aid," Mayor Fairchild said.
The proposed changes are not without detractors. Some community members have alternative plans to building a brand new police station. They have suggested that earthquake proofing the fire station is unnecessary.
During the initial levy meeting some councilors expressed concerns that the fire station plans weren't good enough. They felt that, in the long run, it would be better to build an entirely new station, rather than expand the old station.
"Our firefighters deserve the best, but I don't think that this is the best," Councilor Warren Lamb said.
"Right now we are just doing a remodel of the current fire station to keep the roof from collapsing in on millions of dollars worth of equipment should there be an earthquake," Councilor Wess Scroggin said.
City Manager Roger Jordan agreed with Councilor Scroggin, stating that the fire station remodel would just be the first phase in what, over time, would hopefully be expanded into satellite stations throughout the Dallas area.
Despite concerns about the fire station, everyone present at the August meeting agreed that the new police station was an absolute necessity.
City staff members are attempting to provide the public with as many details as possible about the proposed plans.
Information stands with brochures and artist renderings of the proposed buildings can be found at city hall, Wal-mart, and various bank lobbies.
If community groups are interested in having representatives from the city speak at meetings, or if individuals have any questions about the bond levy they can call the city manager's office at 503-831-3502.