LAKEWAY, Texas (KXAN) — Voters will soon decide the fate of a possible brand new police station in Lakeway. On May 6, residents will decide whether to pass a $23 million bond to fund the land acquisition and construction for the Lakeway Police Department.
Lakeway Mayor Joe Bain says the justice center the city’s police department currently operates out of is inefficient. It was built more than 25 years ago.
“We’re not providing the services at the levels we really need to for our citizens. We need to make sure that we move forward,” he said.
Mayor Bain says the city’s growth is reason enough to devote more resources to law enforcement, believing Lakeway will grow its population to about 25,000.
“The crime will increase. We have more entrances and exits to Lakeway, so we have to work at it to keep our crime rate low and keep our citizens safe,” said Bain.
According to the City of Lakeway, the proposed 31,000-square-foot, two-level facility, which would be more than three times the size of the 9,000-square-foot justice center, is expected to be located on 5.8 acres at the southeast corner of Lohmans Crossing and Lohmans Spur. It is designed to serve Lakeway for at least 25 years, based on current population projections.
City officials say the facility would be home to administrators, patrol officers, 911 dispatchers, and criminal investigation divisions, along with property and evidence rooms, and temporary holding and exercise-training areas.
The Lakeway Police Department says it needs a new building because the current space is “clearly inadequate” and cannot accommodate the number of people currently employed with the department.
Further, Chief Todd Radford says the building is too small to get their jobs done well because the justice center is also occupied by 911 dispatch and municipal court.
“Dispatchers not only have to answer incoming calls, your 911 calls, but then they also have to direct people who come into the lobby,” explained Chief Radford.
The justice center building also lacks a holding cell for suspects.
“When we bring an individual who’s been arrested, we handcuff him to the bench so that it’s secure, and the officers begin to process their paperwork,” explained Radford. “This is also the main hub of the department. So, you see multiple offices the detectives are working out of, trying to do their work.”
That bench, as pictured right, is located in the department’s squad room.
There are those who oppose the bond, however, saying it is too expensive.
“The reality is that it’s double that [$23 million] when you include the interest being paid over 25 years,” said Tiffany McMillan, a candidate for Lakeway City Council, who is against the bond. “It hurts our young families, it hurts our working class families, and it especially hurts our seniors on a fixed income.”
McMillan says she has concerns about the debt the city would be taking on, if the bond is passed.
“It’s astronomical. It’s a huge amount of money — $45 million would triple our debt,” she continued. “It’s way too big for what we need, and it actually would force us to grow. The community doesn’t want to grow that big.”
The mayor says interest is a fact of life and no reason for concern.
“If we spend $23 million on this police station, there’s going to be interest. With the interest, it’s going to be somewhere in the range of $40-45 million total cost at the end of 25-30 years. But, that’s just the way you do business. You borrow money and you pay interest when you borrow money,” said Bain.
While the city is still calculating the final cost to homeowners, initial information indicates if the bond is approved, homeowners should expect to pay a little more than $10 more per month for an average valued home of $472,000.
If approved, the city’s construction manager, SpawGlass Construction, would likely solicit bids from subcontractors in the coming months, with construction estimated to begin in December this year and be completed in early 2019.
City officials said if voters don’t approve the bond, they will have to add portable buildings or rent office space, which they indicate are both expensive options.