New architects will assess faults, future of public safety facilities

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When a group of architects came to town for a walk-through of the city’s public safety facilities, one of the bathrooms in Kilgore Police Department was closed – there was a tree growing into it from the outside.

“I didn’t know that was possible 30-feet inside the building,” Kilgore Police Chief Todd Hunter said, “but it is.”

The building has a myriad of obvious problems that need to be addressed after 50 years of amoebic growth on the City of Kilgore’s North Kilgore Street campus. Council members took a first step last week, approved Dallas-based Randall Scott Architects for a three-phase, $55,750 assessment of the city’s police, court and fire station facilities.

The review of seven buildings on three sites should get underway in December and wrap with a final report in April. That document aims to give city leaders a clear picture of what improvements can, can’t and should be made to Kilgore’s public safety buildings for the far-reaching future.

At KPD, “The building was put together in pieces,” Hunter reminded council members during their regularly-scheduled meeting Nov. 13. “It was built in 1968, so it’s as old as I am. It was built originally as the City Hall to encompass also the police and fire administration.

“Over the years, everyone else has moved out except for the police department.”

Among the various issues within, the PD has no bathrooms for the public, Hunter said.

“We have a court over there, but we’re not ADA-compliant,” he noted. There are HVAC concerns in addition to limited space for growth. The building doesn’t adequately separate victims from suspects during police interviews. “There are a lot of needs they would look at.”

Randall Scott will bring a team in for a full examination of key facilities: the police and municipal court building, evidence and records storage buildings, the Ronnie D. Moore Public Safety Center (911 dispatch and emergency operations as well as training) in addition to fire stations 1-3.

Three-and-a-half years ago, Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck said, the city’s parks and facilities were placed under director Danny Downing.

Since then, “One of our goals was to do an evaluation of the condition of all of our facilities,” Selleck noted. “In some of my first drive-arounds, I became very concerned about the aging infrastructure, specifically related to our facilities.

“We’ve made a lot of impact in terms of repairing roofs, A/C systems, etc. However, in last year’s budget, what we recognized after talking was that when it comes to fire stations and police stations, they’re not typical commercial buildings. They have very special needs.”

Four architectural firms were considered for the assessment, on the basis of qualifications-only according to state law. Following an extensive selection process, Hunter says he’s confident the selected firm’s personnel will be able to apply their expertise to address local public safety’s facilities’ faults and the community’s current and future needs for those buildings.

“They don’t want to just build something for us now, they want to build us something for the future. That’s what we’re looking at,” Hunter added. That said, “We want to be very fiscally-responsible – we don’t want a Taj Mahal … They would look at the existing facilities and see if those could be renovated. That’s all part of this needs-assessment.

“From A-to-Z they do a comprehensive plan, letting us know where we are, where we can go in the future.”

Future growth scenarios will be taken into account, Selleck confirmed.

“What’s really important about growth-scenarios for the police component is what is the ultimate population of Kilgore. How big does it need to be? How many people does it need to be able to accommodate?”

The results of the assessment will be brought back to council for future consideration, Hunter confirmed.

“This is a process that we need to go through,” he said. “I would be remiss if I waited until the roof was caving in to say, ‘Hey, we need a need building.’

“We’ve done very well within the last two or three years looking at our infrastructure and planning about that. That’s what this is about: looking to the future and planning for the future of our public safety needs.”

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