City eyes new ‘cop shop’ for future

117-year-old building gets ‘band aids’ now
Reporter Editor

For the first time, city council members are being asked to consider building a new police station and jail, a project City Manager Kelvin Knauf estimated would cost $650,000 and require a bond issue.

The council approved just under $28,000 in repairs to the current, 117- year-old police station, but those were termed “a band aid” on a structure with chronic, continuing problems.

“I’d hate to see us spend too much money on this when what we really need is a new facility,” Mayor Larry Jones said.

Meeting in regular session Monday at City Hall, the council also okayed repairs to two of Rockdale’s water wells and heard positive reports on two springtime events which drew hundreds of visitors to Rockdale.

‘FAUCET’—Police Chief Thomas Harris said recent rains have highlighted major structural problems with the police station, which was built in 1895 as a City Hall.

“Over the decades dirt has built up along the back of the east wall,” Harris said. “In wet weather like this it never dries out and that moisture comes through those old bricks.”

“When a new roof was put on that part of the building there were no gutters installed, the rain pours off the roof and it goes through those bricks, into the building, like someone had turned on a faucet,” Harris said.

The police chief said contractors, and a structural engineer, have looked at the problem. The council accepted the $27,570 low bid of Bland Construction for repair work, but were cautioned that price tag might rise considerably.

“ We just don’t k now what they’re going to find once they get in there,” Harris said. “The stucco could crumble. Even the old bricks might be so far gone they could just crumble. Contractors said that could happen with materials this old.”

“That whole wall might need to be replaced,” he said. “Then you’re obviously talking about more money.”

“But even if we started on a new jail (police station) tomorrow, this is still something we’d have to do,” Jones said.

HISTORY—The building which has served as the Rockdale Police Station since 2002 was constructed in 1895 as the town’s City Hall and major gathering place.

A second floor auditorium was the site of large public meetings, graduations and even basketball games early in the 20th Century.

In the 1930s, the auditorium was removed and a fire station was incorporated into the rear of the building.

A nother renovation in the 1950s enlarged the fire station. In 1986 a new fire station was built at the Wilcox-Bell corner, the RVFD moved out of City Hall and police facilities were expanded into the former fire station.

Harris noted that jail facilities continue to be primitive and that major renovations are needed.

Knauf said if the city chooses to pursue building a new police station jail, some major preliminary steps must be taken.

“We’d need to figure out where to put it, what the impact on the tax rate would be and how we’d proceed with calling a bond election,” he said.

REPAIRS— The council approved the $198,370 low bid of Weisinger Water Well for repairs on two city water wells located at Coffield Regional Airport.

They’re known as the Airport Well and Runway Well.

The contract calls for a 60-day project. Knauf said depending on the speed of the repair project, the city might have to implement water conservation measures this summer.

SUCCESSES— Chamber of Commerce Chairperson Deedra Jacob reported on the spectacular successes of two spring events, the Tejas Festival and Milam County (Barbecue Cookoff) Festival.

Jacob said the Chamber budgets money from the city’s hotel occupancy tax for both events but the events also received so many sponsorship and grants that the Milam County Festival actually made over $2,000.

“People who participated in all six Tejas Festivals said this was the most successful one ever,” she said. “Just about all the authors sold out of their books.”

“And virtually all 73 barbecue teams who came to the Milam County Festival said they will be back next year,” she said.

In other business the council:

• Recognized the East Side All Stars, new community youth group, for participating in Stash Your Trash Day and sponsoring Sumuel Park.

• Okayed a lease- purchase agreement with Classic Bank for three pickups for the Public Works Department.

• Accepted the recommendation of the Planning & Zoning Board and granted a building setback variance to Terry McGhehey.

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