Council Report: 2017 crime control budget focuses on equipment, technology

The Fort Worth City Council got a glimpse at the final piece of the proposed 2017 fiscal year budget Aug. 16 with a briefing on the funding recommendations for the Crime Control and Prevention District (CCPD), which supports the Fort Worth Police Department.

Equipment, technology and infrastructure lead the way in proposed funding.

The total CCPD budget is about $74.9 million, a 13 percent decrease from $86 million last fiscal year. Terry Hanson, assistant director of the city’s performance and budget department, said the decrease is due to last year’s budget allocating more money toward facility projects such as the new sixth police division.

Most of the budget, 36 percent, is dedicated to equipment, technology and infrastructure – meaning vehicles, body cameras and a new helicopter among other purchases. The city is proposing about $26.8 million for this category, a 42 percent decrease from $46 million last year.

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Enhanced enforcement, which refers to mounted patrol, special response teams, SWAT and other groups, makes up 27 percent of the budget. About $20.7 million is proposed for this category.

The police department also plans to graduate 200 recruits from four training classes in fiscal year 2017, raising the recruitment and training budget from $6.2 million last fiscal year to $8.1 million next fiscal year.

The budget talks come as the city experiences a 2.4 percent drop in overall crime over the past six months, according to Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald. From January to June 2015, about 36,231 offenses were reported. This year, that number is 35,358.

What has risen are reported crimes against persons and society. Crimes against persons (such as homicide, assault, sex offenses, etc.) are up 2 percent from last year, while reports of crimes against society (drug violations, gambling, prostitution, etc.) are up 3.4 percent.

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“Everyone involved in the police department below me has done a fantastic job of making sure that in some of those trying times we’ve seen, that they were able to prompt a decline in total crime,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ve got work to do.”

Budget meetings will continue until the city council’s final vote, scheduled for Sept. 13. The proposed budget includes is a 2-cent cut in the property tax rate.

The meeting schedule can be found on the city’s website:

Lake Worth Trail

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A construction company has been chosen for the Lake Worth Trail project.

The Fort Worth City Council voted unanimously on Aug. 16 to hire Phoenix-based Haydon Building Corp to lead construction on the first phase of the Lake Worth Trail. The company will receive about $5.4 million.

The approximately 5.6-mile trail will begin at Trinity Trail near Anahuac Avenue, then head northwest around Lake Worth, passing Marion Sansom Park and ending at Arrow S Park. Park and Recreation Assistant Director David Creek said construction may begin in October, with some construction and design happening simultaneously.

In addition, the city council voted to pay Fort Worth engineering consultant Freese and Nichols Inc. an additional $200,000 to continue design and engineering services for the trail. With the increase, Freese and Nichols will earn about $1.3 million from the city. The company has been working on the project since 2008.

The total cost of the trail project is about $7.3 million, and the city estimates annual maintenance costs at $78,700.

Lake Worth is located in northwest Fort Worth, north of the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base.

Fire Station No. 1

The ground floor of the historic Fire Station No. 1 building at the corner of Commerce and Second Streets downtown is no longer required to be used solely as a public space.

The Fort Worth City Council voted unanimously on Aug. 16 to remove the deed restrictions that require the building’s ground floor to be reserved for public use, with the contingency that any alterations to the building’s exterior must be approved by the city’s historic preservation officer.

The two-story building was constructed in 1907 and served as a fire station until 1980. In 1981, the city sold the building to the Bass family (under the name City Center Development Co. L.P.) but put restrictions on the property to protect the historic character of the building. The ground floor, for example, had to be open to the public and used as a “multi-media interpretive center and visitors’ center or similar uses,” according to a city staff report.

In 1984, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History opened its “150 Years of Fort Worth History” exhibit on the ground floor. It closed the exhibit in February. Selected items from the exhibit will be on display at the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau downtown Visitors Center at 508 Main St., which is being renovated.

“It was a privilege to tell the story of Fort Worth at such a historic location for more than thirty years,” Museum President Van A. Romans said in a statement. “However, the time is right for us to find other ways to share these artifacts and photographs.”

The Fire Station No. 1 building is co-owned by City Center Development Co. LP, SRB City Investments LP, T-L City Investments LP and DDR/DTC City Investments LP.

According to the city staff report, the groups have kept the structure well-maintained, and the city has determined that the deed restriction is no longer necessary “due to changes in downtown visitor interests and the availability of similar experiences elsewhere in downtown Fort Worth.”

Assistant City Manager Jay Chapa said the owners are looking for a tenant to occupy the ground floor.

Trinity Park improvements

The city hired two firms to help plan improvements for Trinity Park. Fort Worth architecture firm Bennett Benner Partners will receive $86,600 to create a design template for park signs and do a spatial assessment study in preparation for a possible Parks and Recreation department administrative headquarters, among other projects. Civil engineer Neel-Schaffer Inc. of Jacksonville, Mississippi, will receive $78,850 to design road and parking improvements. Trinity Park is located west of downtown.

The Price to De-Ice

Winter is coming and the City of Fort Worth is preparing for the possibility of icy streets.

The city council approved spending $60,500 on bulk rock salt to de-ice roads when needed. The city will buy its salt from Kansas Salt at $105 per ton and Morton Salt at $129.81 per ton.

The city plans to buy an estimated 465 tons of salt this winter, according to city purchasing manager Jack Dale. Last winter, the city spent significantly less (about $11,500 on 114 tons of salt) due to a supply shortage.