City officials said a planned renovation of the Sherman Police Department headquarters could help sustain the law enforcement agency for much of the next two decades.
City crews have already begun work on a $4,144,814 remodel of the Sherman Police building at 317 South Travis St. that will see renovations to the basement, ground floor, second floor and exterior of the building.
“It is about renovating the space to make it more useful and more efficient, but it’s also about adding capacity,” City Manager Robby Hefton said during the City Council’s budget workshop earlier this month. “We believe that this type of renovation would give us another 10 or 15 or 17 years — we don’t know exactly how quickly we’re going to grow but it does add many years to our projected staffing needs.”
Hefton said the renovations could allow the department to add more than 20 people to its staff, including increasing the number of patrol officers from 40 to 58. He said when the Sherman Police next outgrow the building, after the planned renovation, the city may consider adding a separate substation or another precinct.
“One of the main reasons we’re looking at this is as we continue to grow and expand, we’re really left with the decision of do we expand in place what we have or do we build something new,” Hefton said. “Looking out past that (renovation), we believe that supplementing our needs might be done in a way that doesn’t involve using police headquarters — it might be more of a substation. We believe that plan would get us into the next generation.”
Police Chief Zachary Flores started the discussion of the facility remodel by explaining the department always wants to present itself in a way that shows professionalism.
“We’ve told our officers, ‘If we look unprofessional, that needs to be because we made a mistake, not because we just look unprofessional,’” Flores said. “That goes with how we dress, how we take care of our cars, how we take care of our facilities.”
Flores then introduced Aaron Babcock of Hidell and Associates Architects Inc., who designed the Sherman Public Library remodel for the city, to discuss some of the aspects of the proposed renovations to the SPD headquarters.
“As the police department has grown over the years, the facility is really not enabling them to be as efficient as they can be and it is not as secure as it can be,” Babcock said. “(In) any kind of reconfiguration, we would want to set up a perimeter for the building that you are not parking under the building itself and the way by which you enter into the building is you, as a public person, come into a lobby area and there’s a secured perimeter that you only gain access through being let past that secured area.”
Babcock explained the priorities for the remodel will be increasing security, making the department more efficient and then improving its image.
“The evidence is stored in multiple locations, which really complicates the handling of the evidence and the processing of the evidence,” Babcock said of improving efficiency within the department. “(In) any reconfiguration plan, we would want to put that into a centralized location.”
City crews are currently working on a renovation of the top floor of the SPD building, but the city is planning to hire a contractor to do the rest of the work.
“The idea is the police would stay here during the renovations and part of the beauty of the city doing the third floor and doing it before a contractor got involved is it would give them a floor to move staff to while the renovations were going on,” Babcock said. “So we really (believe) realistically that there’s close to a half-million dollars that city crews are able to save by doing that third floor renovation. A lot of that is just the logistics of moving people around.”
Once the work on the top floor is complete, the next phase of construction — work on the first floor, basement and exterior — is scheduled to begin in May of next year.
“Because staff would stay in the building, it would be a longer process for the renovation, clearly,” Babcock said. “We’re really estimating that (work) as being a little over a year.”
Funding the work
Hefton said the city earmarked $500,000 for renovations to the police department building in the current fiscal year’s budget, and much of that is being used for the work currently being done.
“Funding for the other aspects of the job would be proposed for a 2019 bond issue,” Hefton said. “Most of the actual writing checks and costs would be late 2019. (We’d) probably issue (that) debt next summer, but the impacts of that financially wouldn’t be felt until 2020, from a debt service standpoint. We’ve got enough money to do the engineering, architectural and design.”
Hefton said city staff will incorporate plans for the $4.1 million renovation in the upcoming 2018-2019 fiscal year budget, but the city won’t be spending that amount next year.
“It’s most likely that only a small piece of that, if any, would actually be spent in 2019,” Hefton said. “But if we don’t budget for it in 2019, then we can’t even issue a contract for construction to start or anything else without amending the budget. So we’re rather have it in there knowing that the substantial construction won’t start until probably at least a year from now.”