PD saga ends as city hires a contractor

Suit possible over condition of house, land
Reporter Editor

Architect’s final rendering of new Rockdale PD’s front Architect’s final rendering of new Rockdale PD’s front The epic saga of Rockdale’s new police station ended Monday when the city council hired Gaeke Construction of Giddings to build the new facility on a downtown site.

Hurricane Harvey drastically altered the dynamics of construction in Texas and the council decided to lock in Gaeke’s bid, even though it will have to come up with close to a million dollars more than anticipated, and will pass that expense on to taxpayers.

Meeting in a lengthy regular session Monday at City Hall, the council also heard a property owner raise the specter of a lawsuit over adjacent property he said had been a problem for eight years.

The council also adopted its new budget and tax rate, as proposed, and generated a series of split votes in several agenda items.

POLICE STATION— The city had originally budgeted $3 million for the new police station, but has spent several hundred thousand in engineering, architecture, demolition and other items.

Mayor John King said bids came in over budget with Gaeke as the low bidder at well over $3 million.

Then came Harvey and its colossal impact on construction as Houston and the Gulf Coast eye massive re-building tasks.

“If we re-bid this project, those bids are going to be closer to $5 million,” Mayor John King said. He noted bids received for the police station are good for 60 days and will expire Sept. 25.

Estimates were that Rockdale would need about another $1-million to proceed as King urged the council “not to de-fang” the project to save money now.

“This is a deal,” Bob Fisher of KSA Engineers told the council, regarding the bid. “This price is (currently) locked in.”

SAGA ENDS—Fisher said the recommended options on Gaeke’s bid bring the total to $3,238,343 and include a covered canopy and jail cells built to cover jail standards.

Police Chief Thomas Harris said the department won’t actually seek jail certification. “We would have to hire jailers and provide kitchen and other factors,” he said. “But this will be constructed in such a way we’d be able to do that if directed to in the future.”

Fisher said he believes the city will have to come up with about $911,000 to completely fund the project.

The council agreed to issue combination tax and revenue certificates to meet that obligation.

Mayor King noted the certificates are “tax based” and will add about four cents in debt service to the city’s budget.

He said the payoff will be about $87,000 per year.

The police department saga started in spring, 2016, when the city took an option on a parcel of land near the intermediate school, at a price of $250,000, as a site for the new PD.

That provoked a public outcry, with concerns over the price of land and the proposed move of the PD from downtown.

The council went ahead with the land purchase, but—under public pres- changed the location to a site in the 300 block of East Cameron (US 79) three blocks from the current PD site.

SUIT—Ray Gilligan told the council he was considering a lawsuit over the condition of property next door to his Hairston Street rental residence.

“I don’t want to,” Gilligan said, but added: “This has been going on for eight years and nothing has been done.”

He said the house has trash piled many feet high and has a substantial rat problem. “The occupant lives in a tent in the back yard,” Gilligan said.

Gilligan said his renters move out “because of the situation next door.”

He said the situation is “an open case with the city” and that city officials are aware of the problem.

“My attorney is waiting to hear from me by Friday,” he said.

TAX, BUDGET—The council adopted its proposed tax rate of 91.18 cents, along with a general fund budget of $3.3 million and an enterprise fund (water and sewer) budget of $1.7 million.

The budget and tax rate have been the subject of numerous hearings since they were proposed in August.

The current rate is 88.48 cents.

Vote to approve the budget was 4-1 with council member Willie Phillips dissenting.

MDD MEMBERS— The usually routine matter of appointments to the Rockdale Municipal Development District took a different path Monday when council member Joyce Dalley proposed Mayor King as a member for the board.

That passed on a 3-2 vote with all three eastside council members— Dalley, Phillips and Denise Holmes-Wallace— voting in favor and west siders Nathan Bland and Colby Fisher voting against.

West side member Doug Calame was absent.

MDD Board President Dr. John M. Weed and Executive Manager Kara Clore said they had reservations about the appointment.

Dr. Weed expressed surprise at the move. “This is unexpected,” he said. “The mayor is a member of the board that appoints the MDD.”

MDD board members Trent Wages and Bobby Pelzel were reappointed on 5-0 votes.

In other business Monday, the council:

• Heard council visitor Ronnie Caywood describe a recent sewer backup at his house and maintain the problem was with city lines.

• On a 3-2 vote—Bland, Fisher and Holmes-Wallace voting yes and Dalley and Phillips no—decided to use hotel occupancy (HOT) funds to hire a tourism director instead of continuing a current program of refunding money to hoteliers to use in promotion.

• Voted 5-0 to award $350 in HOT funds to Quilty Place to advertise quilting lessons. Two previous motions to award different amounts died for lack of a second.

• Votes 4-1 (with Fisher dissenting) not to proceed with a Rockdale Interactive Web Map, at $30,000 initial cost, after King urged a “no” vote, citing the cost.

• Okayed two services proposed last month by MuniServices, regarding city sales tax revenue and hotel tax management and audit services.

• After executive session, approved a contract with City Manager Chris Whittaker, reflecting a pay increase approved in June.

• Retained Classic Bank as the city’s bank depository.

• Named Donald Allman of Georgetown as the city’s new auditor. Whittaker said the city has had substantial problems with the current firm, Sanderson and Scheffer, and has still not received the audit due in March.

• Okayed an ordinance granting an electric power franchise to Oncor.

• In accordance with new state legislation, okayed ordinances setting out guidelines covering network node technology.

• Approved the City of Rockdale’s taxable value of $203,825,335 as presented by the Milam Appraisal District.

• Proclaimed September as “Texas Strong Month” in Rockdale.

• Authorized Whittaker to make necessary transfers between funds to provide a balanced budget for the 2016-17 budget year. He was also directed to report such transfers to the council in November.

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