Jim Proce has sent me some info in response to a direct question I asked. I have another question into him, now. Neil Howard, the Fire Chief, has sent me some info. I certainly know they have other important duties to perform, and I appreciate their efforts getting back to me on short notice. I have been invited to ask questions at any time.
I am going to try to summarize a whole meeting in a few words. However, I am going to attach any information sent to me by Jim Proce and Neil Howard. You need to get into their detail to know what you're really voting for, or against.
During the meeting, I had no problems with Proposition 1 or 2. If we do not vote in favor of Proposition 1, our taxes, even without lowering the tax rate will take forever to repair the streets and alleys out of simple cash flow. If you want the streets and alleys fixed, vote for Proposition 1. There isn't anything that helps property values more than good streets and good parks. Therefore, some money is needed to develop our parks. I am particularly partial to waterfront park development. Waterfront is something that no other town in our area has. Good streets and good waterfront parks will most definitely help our real estate values. That means you get your tax money back.....either on your balance sheet, or in your pocket if you decide to sell. If you want to go ultra conservative and don't spend money on anything, Balch Springs can show you exactly how to do it. They know how to make cheap housing.
That leaves only Proposition 3. I have written about two objections I had with Prop. 3. Those two objections were providing engineering/architectural design money for a yet to be announced Fire Station, and location of the proposed training facility.
As you know, I attended a meeting to discuss those issues. It was an informative meeting, and there were two way agreements and acknowledgements. I was not totally right, but neither was I totally wrong. I learned some things that we should have already known, but didn't. That is the city's fault. On the other hand, after learning of these important facts, I had to soften my stance. Because of a lack of information, we held a meeting that should have never taken place. There were compromises......good ones.
The $500K for design of the new fire station is not unusually high for a $5.5-$6 million building. About 10% is normal for this type work. But what makes this a special need is because part of this money is allocated to design a site that contains not only a fire station, but also a training facility and a high radio tower. I didn't even know about a radio tower, however it is probably the main reason why the Schrade Road site was selected. I have asked the Fire Chief to expand his information on the federally mandated radio tower and I will re-print it here.
At the risk of maybe explaining things wrong, and becoming subject to a correction later, I offer this story about the previously unknown radio tower. It is up to the city to get you more precise info. If they get it to me, I will get it to you.
Our "all knowing" federal government has issued a mandate that calls for cities to have certain radio capabilities and to be intertwined and linked with other radios. Rowlett set about finding out how to comply with Washington's mandate. Other cities in our area are having to do the same thing. It is my understanding that Rowlett needs a tower. Apparently, west Rowlett can "ping" off a Garland tower, but east Rowlett is uncovered. I am told that research has provided information indicating the tower should be located somewhere along Dalrock Road to be effective. We now have a reason for placing the tower along Dalrock Road rather than just "we already own the land there." This information should have been shared with Rowlett residents. Since "officialdom" knew we needed a radio tower along Dalrock Road somewhere, they started thinking in terms of the training center and a new fire station on the same site. This is not a bad idea on the surface. However, there are other considerations besides sharing development costs. Causing a blight on the landscape is one of them. If property values fall because of the facility, that could be a very bad idea. That was my concern. A radio tower is not as offensive as an industrial building, of which the training facility resembles. Of course, the fire station itself, is not offensive at all. Being close probably helps lower insurance costs. So, we're back to the training facility, again. Neil Howard, the Fire Chief offered this compromise. He said he could have the architect "soften" the top of the training center to make it look less like an industrial building. This would be important. It would be seen. In addition, he proposed placing a "living fence" around the entire site. There are living fences and there are living fences. Some are no bigger than shrubbery and not high enough to block anything. Some have high trees......but they're spaced so far apart you can easily drive Mac trucks thru them. I want to know what the fence is going to look like. Also, temporarily a site block should be placed along the front of the lot along Schrade until the new station is built. This could be another living fence, but it would be temporary. When the new station is built, it will shield the back of the lot where the training facility is located.
The city has to understand and take it upon themselves to protect our property values. If they don't, tar and feather them. Cut holes in their shoes, too.
Now there is the issue of another fire station nearby. Yesterday, I timed the distance between the existing station on Dalrock and the proposed fire station on Schrade. Driving at 47 mph, it took 37 seconds to drive from one to the other. A speeding fire truck could probably do it in less than 30 seconds. Now.....what do you do with two fire stations 30 seconds apart? Of course, the city is trying to provide service to the new Bayview development. They can service the area with two fire stations. One can respond to a call, while the other stays back in reserve. Another option can be tear down the 30 year old station and build a bigger station on the new Schrade Rd. location. Another option is to tear down the existing station, build a new station on Schrade, and build a smaller satellite station nearer Bayview. The city has not selected an option, yet.
I think I see some wisdom in keeping the existing station, build a new and more technological advanced fire station for servicing Bayview, then waiting to see if there is any additional need for a smaller sub-station in Bayview. However, the point here is that the thinking is a little more complicated than whether to build a station, or not.
We have two intertwining stories regarding the $500K design fee and the decision on the location of the training facility. The complexity gives me pause. I had been told the old fire station was to be torn down. Apparently, that decision has not been made.
I can now see some wisdom in combining the training facility, new fire station, and new radio tower on the Schrade land.........But only because the tower has to be there. To soften the blow, the city has to "hide" the training facility with thick and high living fencing and maybe incorporating some brick and wrought iron design........like Garland did. If this can be done, I would remove my reservations on the site selection.
However, it is imperative that the city use every device to hide and/or design the training facility to not be obnoxious. If they fail to do so, "officialdom" just told you that you don't matter. That would probably irritate me.
This post is already too long. I am going to post it......then follow up with copies of information sent to me by Assistant City Manager, Jim Proce, and Fire Chief, Neil Howard......right after today. You must read the "stuff."