The Sherman Police Department could get a more than $530,000 upgrade to the exterior of its existing facility as part of the proposed fiscal year 2017-2018 city budget.
During the Sherman City Council’s budget workshop last month, Police Chief Zachary Flores detailed the planned facility upgrade, as well as several other priorities for the department during the upcoming fiscal year.
Flores said the facility remodel would make the best use of what the department currently has and could extend the life of its building.
“We need the right amount of nice,” Flores said of proposed work that would improve the outside of the building.
Flores showed the council an illustration that included enclosing the drive-thru that goes underneath the second floor of the building, but he said he was actually requesting a less expensive remodel that would leave the drive-thru lane for now.
“Without the fill-in we’re looking at a little over $300,000 and with the fill-in, it’s almost $550,000,” Flores said of the cost associated with the different remodel options. “That’s just an estimate, there’s a lot of work to be done that could change things.”
But Assistant City Manager Steve Ayers pointed out that keeping the drive-thru lane could make it easier for someone to breach the department’s security.
“Having the ability for some big truck to pull under your office, under the administrative staff of your department, that’s a pretty scary thought,” Ayers said to Flores.
Flores said the department has dealt with people with bombs in Sherman, but noted the less expensive remodel would be designed in such a way to allow the drive-thru lane to be closed in at a later date.
However several council members also expressed concern for the department’s safety and voiced support for the more expensive remodel option that would enclose the current drive-thru lane at the SPD building.
“In this day and time, that’s not a wise thing to do anymore,” council member Pam Howeth said of allowing people to pull underneath the front of the department’s building.
City Manager Robby Hefton said the extra space would allow the department to grow for the foreseeable future.
“We’re not going to double in size from the PD or fire department standpoint in the next 10-15 years,” Hefton said. “This allows us the room we need to grow in a measured, nice way.”
Council member Kevin Couch called the $536,280 remodel a “no-brainer.”
“I think it’s good that as a government we encourage and incentivize the private sector to make significant investments into their bricks and sticks, and I think this is us coming to the table too to improve downtown,” he said.
In addition to the remodel of the department’s current building, Flores said the department would like to get more server space, a new building for its evidence, a motorcycle for officers to use and look into adding public safety assistants who could take over some of the tasks of officers.
Server space needs
The police chief told the council the department’s server space needs are important because it currently stores all recordings and videos on servers or CDs/DVDs.
“We’re going to do what we have to do as far as recording video,” Flores said. “There’s a better way to do that. We already know we have a problem with evidence space. The city of McKinney has 30,000 evidence items, currently. The city of Sherman over 100,000.”
Another reason Flores wanted to add server space was to prevent catastrophic loss, noting a duplicate server at a separate location could be used as a backup copy should something ever happen to the department’s current servers.
Beyond the extra server space needed, Flores also talked about the department’s need for a new space for its physical evidence. The department currently uses five different rooms, totaling around 7,000 square feet, to house evidence at the station.
“Off-site evidence allows as to free up all these spaces, allows us to store upwards instead of just on the surface level where we are now,” Flores said. “The department being on three levels (currently), on two of those levels, we have evidence in various places. We’d like to consolidate that, make the job easier on our evidence technicians.”
To add that space, Flores said he recently found a building that could work and the owner said he would be willing to sell the property to the city. The off-site location, which would be near the current station, would add 2,000 square feet of office space and 7,000 square feet of warehouse space with a large lot that would allow the department to also store vehicles.
“This building would need some renovation but at the cost we’re looking to do it, the hope is to come in at less than $100 a square foot,” Flores said.
In light of the recent fire at the Sherman Public Library that was set intentionally, council member Shawn Teamann asked whether the off-site storage building would need to be staffed around the clock with armed guards.
“No, there would be surveillance,” Flores said, noting most police departments store evidence off-site. “It would be a place that officers visit frequently. But we would have to take the necessary steps to secure it.”
Flores said the addition of a motorcycle to the department’s fleet of vehicles could decrease response time to major accidents and increase police presence for traffic safety.
“I often times get complaints about side streets, neighborhood streets — ‘people fly down my street or residential area,’” Flores said. “It’s really tough to get a police car parked in there to run a radar when it’s lined with cars. A motorcycle is a much more effective way to handle that.”
He said the motorcycle could be utilized by the department’s existing officers, calling the vehicle a “job enlargement tool.”
“We talk a lot about being competitive with Metroplex agencies and I would love to stand in front of our officers and say, ‘We offer you every opportunity that you have there,’” Flores said, adding that the motorcycle could also mean more revenue for the department. “I don’t like to look at it from a revenue standpoint, but I do know of some cities that officers who can write 60-80 tickets in one day (on one).”
In addition to the motorcycle, the chief said the department is also looking into getting a smart trailer that could be left on the side of roads to alert drivers to their speeds and create studies of how often people are speeding in areas of the city.
Public safety assistants
Flores also talked about improving the utilization of officers by adding public safety assistants to perform tasks that don’t have to be done by officers. Among the duties he used as examples for what public safety assistants could do were taking nonemergency and low priority calls, blocking traffic, staffing the department’s front lobby and handling parking enforcement.
He said the department currently has two current positions whose duties fall within the job description of the proposed position of public safety assistant and the department is transitioning an evidence technician position to create another one.
At the end of his presentation, Flores thanked the council for considering each of the department’s planned initiatives.
“They all come back to us being able to be effective and efficient,” he said. “So there is a single goal in mind and there is a plan to apply all of them moving forward.”