Firehouse work gets OK from council

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Project can start without bond election this year

The City Council agreed Monday to ramp up the financing needed to rebuild Denton’s three oldest fire stations by issuing certificates of obligation, rather than calling a bond election this year.

The move means about $1 million will be issued this year to acquire land and design services to rebuild Stations 2, 3 and 4. Another $3 million will be issued in 2014 to rebuild one station, likely Station 4, the 46-year-old facility at 2110 E. Sherman Drive.

The council balked earlier this month when the staff proposed a May bond election to raise the $13 million to $15 million needed for the work. The financing was expected to raise the city’s property tax rate as much as 1.8 cents per $100 valuation.

Assistant City Manager Bryan Langley told the council during a planning retreat Tuesday that the certificate financing would allow the city to get started on reconstruction without raising the tax rate this year.

Financing the reconstruction of the two other stations would be folded into a later bond election, likely in 2014, that would pay for a variety of capital improvement projects.

Depending on the timing of the 2014 election, the city may have enough bonding capacity that the capital construction program would not require a tax increase.

Langley told the council that he expects the city to retire enough debt in the next two to three years to embark on another capital improvement program without raising taxes for debt service.

However, he cautioned the council that the city likely will need a 1-cent increase in the property tax rate in 2014 to cover increasing expenses from the general fund.

The City Council got an up-close view of the fire department’s needs during a tour of the facilities this month. The living quarters at the city’s three oldest stations are limited, with male and female firefighters and paramedics sharing sleeping quarters and restrooms.

New fire trucks are taller and wider than older models. The department has had to cut new doors in some stations to accommodate them. In the case of Station 4, drivers have very little overhead clearance when pulling into the bay.

Earlier this month, the council proposed a compromise that combines the fire department’s needs with the planned 2014 bond program and sets a target date of November 2013.

Langley told the council that he took the suggestion, analyzed the finances and determined a November 2013 bond election likely would trigger a tax increase.

In addition, he was concerned about whether the city staff and a citizens committee would have time to prepare for a major program this year.

“The street bond was several years in the making,” Langley said of the $20.4 million measure voters approved in November.

He didn’t think that the next bond election — which could pay for $55 million to $70 million, or more, in projects — would take as long to prepare, but the staff and bond committee would need to do research.

“Particularly, if we need to look at a six-year to eight-year program,” Langley said.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is pheinkel-wolfe@dentonrc.com .


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