"This is a community effort to come together to provide the highest levels of public safety that we possibly can in this county," Hays County Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley told the council. "We have traveled this state and looked at most facilities. We have studied this issue for over a decade. This mechanism presenting before you tonight is not perfect. But it is head and shoulders better than what we have today. Lives will be saved. There will be a higher level of public safety and professionals running that institution if we approve this and move forward today."
Precisely what the council approved was how the center, which is not scheduled to commence operations until sometime in 2019, will be run. But in approving the method of governance, the city effectively said it will soon be getting out of the 911 business and turning that operation into a joint one with the City of Buda and Hays County. The decision also means the city will be forgoing its state-of-the-art emergency response computer software system for one that is already being used by Buda and the county.
Voters approved in a county election last November a bond package to finance the construction of the joint facility, which will be located in San Marcos.
City manager Scott Sellers told the council that Kyle employees working at the city’s 911 call center who move to the co-located one will remain Kyle employees, meaning they will not lose seniority and, perhaps more importantly, their city health care and pension benefits.
"There is no more basic fundamental service we should be providing than the highest level of 911 communication and emergency communication," Conley told the council. "It is at the time when our constituents have the most stress, at the highest need — when their child is choking at the kitchen table, when their home is broke into, when they’re being held at gunpoint. That’s where the rubber meets the road. All the other services that we do are important, but those are the basic, core, fundamental services that we should be the best at, that we should be exceptional."
Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler said "I’ve been in law enforcement 43 years. Dispatch communications is the toughest job in law enforcement right now. I’m looking forward to the day when we reach out and hug the communications operators here in Kyle and bring them under one roof.
"I’m going to be really shocked if Hays County is not a model for some of the other counties in Texas," Sheriff Cutler continued. "I think they when they see how we’ve brought this together they will want to come visit and see how we’re doing it here."
Precinct 1 County Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe acknowledged Kyle city officials made a number of demands (she called them "requests") before an agreement on the interlocal agreement which the council approved Tuesday night was reached. "We have honored those requests at no additional costs to the City of Kyle and I’m here now asking that you look upon this favorably," she told the council "I think it’s a great benefit to our citizens and taxpayers."
The major benefit of the collocation is that it, in effect, obliterates certain territorial jurisdictions when it comes to answering 911 calls. To give just one, albeit somewhat improbable example: A 911 caller seeking help because a gun wielding madman is pursuing the caller down I35 will, under this new service, no longer be forced to wait while his call is being transferred as he crosses the Buda city limits into Kyle.
Sheriff Cutler and Lon A. Shell, the chief of staff of the Hays County Judge’s Office, said outside the council chambers following the council’s 6-0 (council member Daphne Tenorio did not attend the meeting) vote that it is expected construction on the joint call center will begin in November and they expect it to be operational within 14 to 18 months of that time which translates into an opening anywhere between January and May of 2019. Although they acknowledged the subject had not been formally addressed, it is possible, they said, that 311 functionality could be incorporated into the facility’s operations at a later date.
Council members Travis Mitchell and Shane Arabie, who, along with Mayor Pro Tem Damon Fogley, handled much of the city’s negotiations on the terms of the agreement, said it was important for them that Kyle’s operators kept their own licenses to serve as emergency response dispatchers in case the city decided at any point to pull out of the deal, which, they said, the city could do by providing a two-year notice.
In other action last night:
- The council decided it wanted stricter rules than the state has provided governing a motorist’s use of handheld communication devices and directed staff to return with an amended ordinance that maintains the city’s restrictions on using those devices for calling as well as texting, while incorporating the necessary language in the new state law that simply prohibits texting (but not game playing) on such a device while driving.
- Following additional kudos for the city manager’s proposed budget from council member David Wilson, Fogley and Mayor Todd Webster, the council formally adopted his $75.5 million budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 and set the property tax rate at $.5416 per $100 of assessed taxable valuation. Although that tax rate is 3.3 cents lower than the current rate, most property owners will still be faced with a higher tax bill because of increased property values combined with the fact that the City of Kyle was the only one of the eight taxing entities governing Kyle residents that did lower its tax rate.
- The council passed the first reading of an ordinance amending two sections of the city’s "rural subdivision standards" that were in conflict with one another. One section required that "all lots in rural subdivisions be greater than one acre in area" while the other said "the minimum residential lot size in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction shall be 9,600 square feet" and all lots in these areas served by a septic system shall have a lot size of 20,000 square feet. The change keeps the second rule allowing for 9,600 square feet foot lots, but only if they are connected to an off-site waste-water treatment line. Those using septic systems must be at least an acre and must employ county-approved advanced septic equipment. The amendments passed 4-1 with Mitchell dissenting and Arabie not present when the vote was taken.
- Sellers told the council between 9,000 and 10,000 persons attended last weekend’s Pie in the Sky Festival. "For a first-year event, that’s phenomenal," Sellers said. Mayor Webster echoed Sellers, calling the festival "the most successful event the city’s ever had." Sellers also said the council’s first meetings in October and November conflict with National Night Out on Oct. 3 and Election Day Nov. 7. The preliminary thought was to advance both meetings to the Mondays prior to those dates.
- The council authorized one more year in the lease the city has for three Harleys for its motorcycle cops, but Police Chief Jeff Barnett hinted the city may change to a different make beginning with the next fiscal year.
- The council unanimously voted to spend $35,000 for a video surveillance system for parts of City Hall.
- The council unanimously approved the appointments of Travis Robinson and Leslie Denise Blok to the Planning & Zoning Commission, but indefinitely postponed Tenorio’s political patronage appointment of Nancy Fahy to the Ethics Commission, presumably because Tenorio did not attend the meeting.
- Without any discussion or debate, the council unanimously adopted a resolution documenting the annual review and update of the city’s investment policies.