Dispute between sheriff, commissioner has new Katy-area substation on hold
Katy, Texas
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Nearly four years after Fort Bend County voters approved bonds to add law enforcement resources to the Katy area, plans for a new substation are at a standstill because of a dispute between the sheriff and a county commissioner over the best location.

Discussions on the project have halted, and Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers said it’s unlikely the topic will be reintroduced at upcoming commissioners’ meetings. A previously offered donation of land is no longer being considered, but Meyers said he plans to secure another plot that could cost the county $1.75 million.

Meyers had originally suggested placing the 18,000-square-foot substation on donated land inside a major retail center at the intersection of Farm-to-Market roads 1093 and 1463. It would share a parking lot with a Walmart. But Sheriff Troy Nehls balked at the location.

“I objected to it right away,” Nehls said. “I actually thought it was a joke. Andy (Meyers) didn’t think it was a joke. I had to go to the other members of the court and conveyed to them that this was a bad location.”

In a May 2018 letter to then-County Judge Robert Hebert and commissioners, Nehls wrote that the proposed location was “not conducive to our mission in providing law enforcement services to the area.” Nehls wrote that he would decline to staff the substation at the site proposed by Meyers.

Meyers wrote in an email that his office had negotiated a donation of land from Fort Bend County Improvement District No. 48, a management district that levies property and sales taxes for improvements in the area.

“Many law enforcement offices, including Fort Bend County Precinct 2’s annex office, are in shopping centers as a part of the ‘community policing’ concept,” Meyers added. He said the location is at a major intersection in northwest Fort Bend County.

The Katy area substation was part of a $98.6 million, four-part facilities bond package Fort Bend County residents approved in November 2015. One of the propositions, approved by 60 percent of voters, allocated $62.9 million to expand and renovate county buildings, including the Justice Center, the Medical Examiner’s building and the Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff and his staff last month completed the move to the new, three-story, 48,000 square-foot headquarters, which houses its patrol, administration and criminal investigations division. The state-of-the-art, $11.3 million Sheriff’s Administration building stands next to the old, vacant facility.

But commissioners have taken no action on the $4.3 million, 18,000 square-foot sheriff’s substation that would have provided workspace for at least 60 additional patrol units and about 15 detectives serving the Katy area. Currently, deputies who patrol Precinct 3 share a small office with other county officials at the Katy Annex at the corner of Grand Parkway and Westpark Tollway. Nehls said once the new substation is built, he plans to move those deputies and others from headquarters to staff it.

Nehls, in the letter to Hebert, also questioned the motives for a developer to donate land, adding that “nothing is free.”

Meyers said the deal was straightforward: The improvement district would use its sales tax revenue to buy the land, then donate it to the county for the substation.

“It was also contemplated that the district would hire the sheriff’s office as security for the 90-plus acre shopping center,” he added.

David Hawes, the improvement district’s executive director, helped negotiate the deal. He said the proposed location was “right there at the intersection of two major highways and a major retail center,” adding that the Walmart sits on the edge of Fulshear in an area that’s rapidly growing.

But Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Maj. Chad Norvell said the shared parking lot with Walmart would have made it difficult to dispatch deputies’ vehicles.

“We’re trying to plan for the county in 20 years from now,” Norvell said. “The spot in the Walmart strip center is not going to allow us to grow and it’s not going to allow for secured parking of county equipment and vehicles.”

Fort Bend County is home to roughly 760,000 people, according to recent census data. The county is adding 25,000 to 30,000 people per year, Nehls said, and unincorporated areas of Precinct 3 north of the Westpark Tollway are experiencing particularly robust growth.

Discussions of the Katy substation began more than four years ago when Nehls reviewed his office’s needs with other county officials. The plan was to complete the construction of the Katy substation first, then begin construction on the new administration building, Nehls said.

Those plans changed when Meyers and Nehls could not agree on where the substation should go. In March, after 18 months, construction of the administration building was completed.

But Nehls still wants the Katy substation. He’s proposed several locations, including one that was recently sold because the “commissioner kept dragging his feet,” Nehls said.

One possible site is next to the Fulshear-Simonton Fire Department Station No. 3 on Fulshear-Gaston Road, Norvell said.

“We feel that that would be centrally located, it’s very quick access to FM 359, FM 723 as well as the rest of Fort Bend,” Nehls said.

Despite the delays, Meyers said the county is going to “deliver what we promised” to voters.

“The size of the project may be reduced if actual costs are more than our original estimate,” he said. “We will still have a functional facility. We had not originally included the Fire Marshal and Health Services in the facility but believe we can accommodate them.”

Good 'ol politics! Keep fighting Sheriff Nehls!
Posted by Big Al at 5/15/2019 1:13:30 PM

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