Editor’s Note: This is second of two stories detailing a day-long Carthage City Commission workshop discussing upcoming infrastructure needs. A look at water and sewer plant infrastructure can be found here.
Regardless of whether the City of Carthage wants to build a new public safety building or not, city officials say both police and fire departments are going to need updated equipment, more space and other capital expenses within the next few years.
“They’re out of space, we’re out of space,” Fire Marshal Randy Liedtke said when talking about the possibility of rehousing the police department. “Obviously we would have probably more office space, more floor space than we need at the fire station when it comes to office spaces, break rooms and sleeping areas. We could do a lot if the police department were not housed in the same building. But there’s still going to be some renovation costs involved in that. We’ve still got to have some of these same things.”
Discussions about police, fire, roads, parks and other city buildings ended a Carthage City Commission capital projects workshop on July 9, with commissioners discussing items that are slated for improvement or need to be addressed within the next few years.
One of the longest discussions was with Liedtke and Police Chief Blake Smith, continuing discussions the city has been having for several years about whether to build a new public safety complex, renovate the existing building, relocate a department or some combination of all three.
City Manager Steve Williams again asked commissioners to start thinking about what they might want to do.
The current police and fire building has several issues, including a need to update or replace the generator, A/C units, fire alarm system, security camera system and storage. In particular, Smith said the police department had a major lack of storage, a lack of holding cells and no detox cell. On the fire side, the truck bays need to have a ventilation system put in place to decrease carbon monoxide fumes.
The city’s radio tower, in the middle of the current building, also needs to be addressed. Liedtke said the original tower was 100 feet tall, and then they added 90 feet to it. That extra 90 feet has been deemed unsafe and will need to be taken out.
Liedtke and Smith said they were looking at moving the primary radio tower communications to the tower at the Civic Center while leaving the city’s radio tower as a back-up tower.
“Then that would give us a redundant back-up if it were to fail at this tower,” Liedtke said, noting the tower’s new height wouldn’t be an issue for a back-up system. “We may not have the range. That’s not going to hurt police at all, it would be a little bit could hurt us as we go into the outlying areas.”
Both Liedtke and Smith said their departments had outdated dispatch equipment that needed to be replaced. The fire department is still using its old rotary dial phone and party line system, Liedtke noted, and if someone calls 911, both the city dispatch and county dispatch have to transfer fire calls over to the fire phone.
Police dispatch, likewise, can’t talk to other radio channels at the same time, Liedtke said. Both Liedtke and Smith said they would like to move to a system where, during the daytime hours, the police dispatcher can also dispatch firefighters with a computerized system — allowing firefighters to be able to do things like service fire hydrants and inspect buildings.
“I think the time has come that we need to modernize the way we dispatch our people and the way we handle that,” Liedtke said.
Liedtke told commissioners that match grant funding was available through FEMA, and other radio and equipment money could also come from a grant.
“When I talked to the (FEMA) people about this, because of what we have or the lack of what we don’t have, they said we would score very high, way up on there that we would be very likely to get a grant on this right away,” Liedtke said.
Roads, Water Lines and Sewer Lines
Williams went over several road, water line and sewer line projects they’re looking at doing in the next few years — totaling about $4 million — including a major reconstruction of Sabine Street from Maple to Sycamore.
That estimated $1.275 million project would include a full street replacement of Sabine Street, along with drainage work and water line improvements. Williams said that project was one he would like to get designed and ready to go for the year after next.
Other projects include a $575,000 project on Wellington Street that would include water line improvements, milling and overlaying; water replacement work on Bounds and Maple at an estimated cost of $160,000; water and sewer improvements for Success, Edith and Airport streets at a cost of $400,000; water and sewer improvements on North Daniels and Reagan, at a cost of $495,000; and water improvements on Live Oak Street, at a cost of $255,000.
The city is also looking at doing preventative overlay work on University Drive and surrounding University Circle, Baylor, Texas, Mustang and Hidden Valley at an estimated cost of $425,000.
While those roads are not in bad shape compared to other city streets, Williams said the goal was to keep them from degrading. The city is looking at doing a chip seal, such as last year’s projects on MLK Boulevard, Adams and Parker streets. Chip sealing is about a third of the cost of overlaying, Williams said, and would give them seven to 10 more years with the current street.
Commissioners asked Williams and Public Works Director Byron Roberts why they were looking at doing work on one of the better streets as opposed to one that really had degraded.
“When some of our streets look like Beirut, Lebanan, why would you spend your money on a street that still looks good?” Mayor Lin Joffrion asked.
“It’s protecting that street...” Williams said. “If you don’t do some kind of sealant over it, which is what that overlay is doing, all your doing is sealing it, then you lose that, you start losing base.”
“It might be more money to fix a street that has all those issues than to go over and overlay the street that doesn’t have those issues and keep it maintained to make sure it don’t get to that point,” Roberts said.
Water/Sewer Distribution Supervisor Kemmy Henderson also detailed a $470,000 replacement of lines near Lift Station No. 2 and the water treatment plant. Henderson said they’re seeing a decrease in flow from lines that have become full of roots.
“I had a guy come in and try to root cut,” Henderson said. “He did a couple spots, but he got to some spots that it wouldn’t cut.”
Henderson also asked city officials for an engineering study for the main concrete line that goes around the city. Henderson said it has no valves, so there’s no way of cutting off the flow if something went wrong, and they’d like to figure out how many valves they need.
“Sounds like it’d be a good investment to at least get an engineering study,” Commissioner Jerry Hanszen said.
Both Williams and Roberts said eventually the city would have to discuss adding a fourth water tower on the northwest side of town, but that was not in the pipeline for the next few years.
“I would think it would look on the north side of town, northwest side of town, putting a tank,” Roberts said. “That side of town is really going to struggle as we grow more this way.”
Parks and City Facilities
John Ramsey, with the city’s inspection department, said one of the most pressing projects within the parks and city buildings was re-roofing the Davis Park Community House.
The roof was damaged in the February snowstorm when ice melted and the water went back up under the roof.
“We had water pouring in that community house all along the back wall,” Ramsey said.
The roof is also nearing the end of its life, Ramsey said, estimating it had about two years left.
In addition to the community house, Ramsey pointed to a need for drainage ditch repairs at Davis Park.
Over at the Ballpark, Ramsey said the current lights are about 30 years old and not LED lights — changing those over would cost an estimated $200,000. The concession stands and restroom are more than 20 years old and are being repaired frequently, and Ramsey noted the concession had no range hoods and needed to be brought up to fire code. Ramsey added the ballpark’s electrical system panel on the boys’ end was in really bad condition and needs to be upgraded, at an estimated cost of $150,000.
When it comes to city buildings, Ramsey said there weren’t a lot of major repairs needed. City Hall has the biggest need, Ramsey said, because of HVAC and duct work that is original to when the building served as a bank.
Ramsey also said the 12-year-old Civic Center, while having no immediate needs at present, will eventually have to replace some of its primary equipment, such as the 100-ton chillers, the 300KW generators and air handling units.
Ramsey said roofs at City Hall, the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, the Panola County Chamber of Commerce and the Civic Center are all working fine now, but they are about 12 to 20 years old.