Officials await decision to join forces

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Officials in Aubrey and Krugerville await the decision of Cross Roads council members, who have yet to vote on whether they want to create a joint police department among the three cities.

Aubrey and Krugerville have already decided to move forward with negotiations, and Cross Roads, which doesn’t have a police force, is expected to decide on the issue during a Town Council meeting on June 17.

Cross Roads Mayor Steve Smith said he’s for the idea if it makes financial sense.

“We’re examining every option available in front of us to determine what’s best,” he said. “We’re going to do what’s best for our town.

Smith said the Cross Roads council could opt to form its own police department or continue to be served by the county.

According to a proposed budget outline, the three municipalities would split the cost of operations.

For the joint police force, Krugerville would spend about $200,000, Cross Roads $275,000 and Aubrey $275,000 for the first year.

Aubrey Police Chief Tommy Payne said the idea of joint services has been kicked around for many years, but never gained traction.

About four months ago, the three municipalities met to discuss plans to merge police forces as well as court systems in an effort to boost the services in their region.

The police chiefs from each department and each mayor discussed the advantages and disadvantages of a joint department.

And so far, officials are pushing for it.

Officials said they believe that with the growth occurring in the region, joint services would allow them to better serve the area.

“Right now we only have two patrol officers and one police chief,” Krugerville Mayor Dave Hill said. “So we don’t have 24-hour patrol. Consolidating will help fill the gaps.”

Officials said it would put a huge financial strain on the cities if they were to abandon their joint venture plan and fund separate police forces to patrol 24-7.

The area between the three municipalities has a few large residential developments that are expected to take shape within a few years, and that has some leaders worried about traffic control and safety.

“To get the manpower we need to get to that level of services puts a burden on the budgets of Aubrey and Kurgerville, but by combining, that burden is eased,” Payne said.

Officials said the joint department is modeled after cities that have also combined their forces in a similar fashion.

For example, officials researched the Houston-area cities Bunker Hill, Hunter Creek and Piney Point, which consolidated their police forces in 1977.

“Our police chiefs really did their research and they are making sure everything is done right,” Hill said.

The combined police force would have at least 13 employees, including a police chief, an assistant police chief, an investigator and seven patrol officers.

Officials said they hope to have the agreements finalized and operational by Oct. 1, the start of a new budget year.

“We want to have the department up before the start of the fiscal year, so that we can budget the funds for it,” Hill said.

Hill said he expects Cross Roads to follow through and agree to the joint venture.

“I don’t believe that they will decide against it, but it is a possibility,” he said. “We’re willing to work with them.”

Officials say they’ve dealt with concerns from residents about which city would be responsible for maintaining the joint department.

“The only thing we’re doing right now is say that we’re interested in moving forward with negotiations,” Smith said. “Details can be addressed, but first, everyone is trying to see who’s on board with the idea.”

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.

 


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