Round two of the city’s budget talks kicked off Monday night with Police Chief Roy Halsell, Director of Community Development Betty Chew and Director of Public Works Drew Wells addressing the council. The city directors put together presentations on what they felt each of their departments needed and the areas where they have experienced successes in the past year.
Halsell began by updating the council on the viability of his force, something he takes great pride in.
“Our biggest strength is the people that we have,” said Halsell. “We provide through these people, they are our contact with the public. They have a desire to improve and to be involved.”
While Halsell expressed that he is happy with the strength and ability of his force, he asked the council to add additional officers, update the force’s technology by providing laptops in patrol cars and adding electronic ticket writers and providing video technology for his officers.
“Video is a great witness and really helps the officers,” said Halsell.
Halsell cited the growth of the city and its annexed areas for the understaffing currently taking place on his force, both with officers, investigators and dispatchers.
In what Halsell calls a “flurry” of grants, he hopes to hire both a patrol and school resource officer and obtain the technology related items on his list.
Halsell cited the turnover in officers as one of his biggest challenges. He told the council that the Stephenville Police Department has lost an average of 2.6 officers a year over the last 10 years. According to Halsell “pay is an issue,” but so is lack of qualified applicants. He hopes to maintain officers and dispatchers so that the quality of his force can steadily improve.
After Halsell spoke, Chew addressed the council. Chew focused on a long-term approach, acknowledging that her budget outlook for the coming year looked favorable. Chew cited that the city needed to always think in terms of future development by looking at commercial areas, water lines and having a variety of building sites available for both residential and commercial interests. According to Chew, revenue was up for the current year, and the city is “online” with many projects. Chew also answered questions from council members.
Councilman Russ McDaniel urged Chew to be “proactive” instead of “reactive” when it comes to code enforcement, to which Chew said that summer is a busy season for code enforcement issues and that the city “tries to work with citizens as much as they can.” Mayor Nancy Hunter asked Chew about the establishment of an economic development council.
“We are an attractive community, stores come and look at us all the time. It’s just having the properties that they want available to them,” Chew said.
Wells presented next with what he deemed a PEP (Projects, Equipment and Personnel) talk. Wells gave a projects update, stating that Splashville should be open sometime in July and that additional staffing needs are necessary. He also gave an update on the Bosque River Trail project, informing the council that the trail will be 8,000 linear feet in length and will start at Graham Street, in the city park, wind through Crow and Minter streets, then run along E. Long Street, finally ending on Tarleton Street. The trail will be 10 feet wide and include two trail shelters, landscaping and lights.
The airport terminal building should be complete by October and hangar revenues are up due to supply and demand. According to Wells, all 30 hangars are full and 15 people are on the waiting list.
Wells is still waiting to hear about the runway extension, but said, “TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) has us on their radar.” The brick street renovation is slated to be complete by August, before school starts again and Wells says the city will have plenty of bricks to complete other projects.
Wells went on to address the steps that have been taken during a cemetery beautification initiative which included removal of unwanted trees, planting of wanted trees and cleaning up gravesites. He also requested that the recreation hall have air conditioning installed, citing the renewed usage of the facilities and asked that the city look at remodeling the senior citizen’s center, which Wells said is something that they “deserve.”
City Administrator Mark Kaiser challenged the council to come up with their own “wish lists” and to “do their homework” and prioritize the things they feel the city really needs. He cautioned that the city will not have a huge discretionary budget, but that the city needs to make the most of what they will have.