Council holds retreat, discusses Business 190, fire station projects
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Several future projects were presented to the Copperas Cove city council at their retreat held Monday.
The council was presented with another look at the Traffic Study conducted in 2015 and suggested improvements to the Business 190 Master Plan and Design.
The traffic counts, which were collected in December 2015 while school was in session, included intersection turning movement counts at four intersections to include Robert Griffin III Boulevard; Constitution Drive; Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd; and E Ave D.
The study also included a speed analysis of speed data gathered in two locations, looking for 85th percentile speeds or the speed that 85 percent of drivers adhere to. Speed affects access spacing, turn lane lengths, median opening spacing, signal timing and operation.
The council was also presented with data on the turn lane design and turn lane components as well as the access analysis.
The left turn lane design includes a 100-foot taper, 100-foot storage minimum, 215 feet for deceleration, equaling a 315 feet total length minimum and 530 feet minimum between median openings.
Lee Engineering projected traffic volumes out 20 years by increasing the traffic volume one percent per year, according to president Joseph Short.
Council member Charlie Youngs expressed his confusion over why the project decreases the number of lanes if traffic is forecasted to increase, while council member Marc Payne brought up the uniqueness of the Fort Hood area’s traffic, especially around pay day- during which traffic is intense.
“I realize we don’t design for peak times but we have more peak times that are larger than the average city,” Payne said.
Youngs added that he was concerned over the ability of emergency vehicles to get to their destination with less lanes, adding that he had seen fire trucks or ambulances driving down the center turn lane because it was the only way to get through traffic.
Councilman Kirby Lack asked about the number of car wrecks connected to the middle turn lane.
Deputy Police Chief Jeffrey Stoddard said there were over 60 accidents just in the one mile stretch of roadway between Avenue D and Constitution Drive.
“There is a big safety aspect to this project that I think that we’re missing on, is that currently the way that 190 is configured out is dangerous, it is absolutely dangerous,” Stoddard said.
The Texas Department of Transportation does not recommend the number of access points currently available on Business 190, which is more than 70, Stoddard added. The safety aspect of the Business 190 project is “paramount”, Stoddard said.
Currently, it is not safe to walk or ride a bicycle down 190, he added.
Stoddard also addressed the topic of emergency vehicles using the middle lane, stating that nobody in administration likes to see emergency vehicles driving down the turn lane. Emergency vehicles should stay in the left lane with their lights and sirens, letting people move out of the way, he said.
Council member James Pierce Jr. said that a fire engine will have to go an extra 500 feet to make a turn and the concern of 18-wheelers being able to make left-hand turns for deliveries or for moving trucks. Stoddard and CCFD Chief Neujahr both assured council that the fire trucks and 18-wheelers could make turns.
Council member Dan Yancey asked Short about whether it is unique for 18-wheelers to take a bypass road around a city, to which Short said that this was normal.
BSP Engineering’s Tony Beach presented the council with examples of what the median design will look like. There will not be a consistent median, with it being 45 feet at its widest and at some points narrowing to 8 feet, depending on location.
There are no plans to purchase right-of-way from business, nor are there any plans to add bus stops along the road, despite earlier discussions. There are also no right turn lanes planned nor any roundabout concepts.
The start date for construction is scheduled for December 2019. Plans will be finished by August 2019 to be sent to TxDOT before coming back and bids being requested. There are two phases to the project, the first of which is from Constitution Dr. to Ave D, and the second which goes from Ave D to FM 116. Phase 1 will take 18 months to complete, according to Beach.
The construction cost for Phase 1 is 100 percent funded by TxDOT- up to the estimate. If the bids exceed the estimate, the city is responsible for the difference, according to Gardner. The city paid for the design and engineering. Phase 2 has not been funded yet.
Fire station facilities and personnel needs increasing
Discussions on Monday also concerned expanding Fire Station #3, adding a Fire Station #4, increasing staff and adding equipment for the Fire Department, as well as building a new animal shelter facility.
Copperas Cove Fire Chief Michael Neujahr spoke with council members and explained the need for expanding Station 3 and adding a fourth fire station.
Currently, the Copperas Cove Fire Department has 49 personnel, including Neujahr. Minimum daily staffing requires 13 personnel to include one Captain, two Lieutenants and 10 firefighters, split among the three fire stations, Neujahr said.
Fire Station 3, located by Ogletree Gap Park, has one fire engine, one ambulance and one brush truck and is staffed by two firefighters per shift.
There is a need to increase the number of personnel at Fire Station 3, according to Neujahr.
In 2017, there were 779 calls for service in Station 3’s district but 1,008 calls that Station 3’s ambulance responded to and 151 calls that Engine 3 responded to.
“Every time an ambulance is out on service for a call, that fire truck is out of service,” Neujahr said. “Conversely, every time that fire truck is out on a call, that ambulance is out of service.”
The proposed plan includes redesigning Station 3 by reconfiguring and enlarging staff quarters, the living area, apparatus bay, storage and the driveway to accommodate the apparatus. The total cost for this would be $2,050,000. The funding for this project was originally scheduled for 2020 but Neujahr proposed moving the timeline to 2019.
“We’re just at that point, gentlemen, where we have to have that staffing,” he added.
Regardless of the expansion of the station, three more firefighters and three more lieutenants are needed, Neujahr said. The total annual increase in personnel expenditures would be $457,767.
Neujahr also shared the proposed plan for a fourth fire tation, to be located on a plat of land between Charles Tillman Way and Old Copperas Cove Rd. With a beginning date in 2019, the station could be opened by 2021, Neujahr said. The total cost for the station, which would also have a substation for the Copperas Cove Police Department, would be $7.7 million, to include design and engineering, construction, and equipment and furniture. There is a plan to phase in employees for staffing, according to Neujahr.
The Apparatus Plan for Station 4 includes the purchasing of a new ladder truck for $1.4 million; a new ambulance for $275,000; a new brush truck for $160,000 and a command type vehicle for $60,000. All vehicles would come “fully loaded” with the necessary equipment.
The staffing plan for Station 4 is broken up into three phases and adds 15 more firefighters and three Lieutenants for an annual total of $1.4 million by 2020-2021. This would allow five firefighters and one lieutenant per shift.
Station 4’s potential district is divided into 11 sections and encompasses everything north and South of Robertson Avenue, going east to Clark Road. In 2017, in this district, there were 717 calls for service - 612 EMS calls and 105 fire calls. Mutual aid from Acadian EMS, Fort Hood EMS or Killeen EMS was requested 97 times due to there being no available CCFD ambulances. The wait time for the outside EMS was anywhere from 10-20 minutes, Neujahr explained.
“Every single day, the fire department runs out of ambulances,” Neujahr said. “Even if we don’t get moving on that Station 4 construction, we could by God use that ambulance and those personnel.”
The council was informed by city manager Andrea Gardner that the city can apply for grants to offset the cost, like the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant and that the Fire Department can apply for grants like the Assistance to Firefighters Grant.
Animal Shelter needs
The council also heard from Lt. Brian Wyers, with CCPD and Animal Control, regarding the needs of the city’s animal shelter. The current shelter’s Kennel B was built in 1988, with an expansion in 2002 adding Kennel A and the office building.
Wyers said he went to the Lampasas Animal Shelter and the Harker Heights Animal Shelter to compare them to Copperas Cove’s.
“When I walked through those places, it was grossly obvious that we need to do something,” Wyers said. He added that he wants to avoid “throwing a band-aid at the problem” and ending up back in front of council five years from now.
The issues the shelter currently faces include flooding, rat infestation, segregation, deterioration of building, lack of storage of food and supplies, drain issues and lack of work space, such as space to perform procedures like euthanasia and decapitations, which happen with rabies cases, according to Wyers. Currently, there is no such place to do so except for a sink and a freezer.
The needs assessment was performed by Brinkley Sargent Wiginton Architects, who determined that the 1.2 acres the shelter currently covers is not enough to accommodate all the needs.
There are two options for the shelter- an open-air concept and an enclosed concept. In both of those options, the dog kennel area quadruples to room for nine isolated, 48 owner-known, 42 adoptions. The cat kennel would allow for up to 81 cats and 9 quarantines, with cages stacked three high. Currently, there are 24 kennels for dogs and 12 cages for cats for the whole city of Copperas Cove.
The proposed outdoor kennel, with bay doors that could close at night and in the winter, would use ventilation only, no conditioning with heat in the winter for a total square-footage of 14,698 sq. ft and a total cost of $6.1 million. The indoor kennel, which would be completely enclosed and conditioned, would have a larger square-footage of 15,361 sq. ft and a total cost of more than $7.4 million. Both options come with a play area/ “catch all” pen totaling 2,400 sq. ft.
Council member Kirby Lack said he understood the need to deal with the problem but asked if it would be possible to cut back and decrease the cost.
“We’re looking at some really big expenditures over the next couple years or so and we don’t have the industry to bring in that kind of…huge cash flow,” Lack said.
Wyers shared that $400,000 had already been knocked off the price by reducing storage space and said he would be willing to look into reducing kennel space but cautioned the council about being realistic regarding the price. He would not be able to bring them a solution costing less than $3 million, he said.
“My opinion as staff speaking to council is we need to do something,” Wyers said. “And it has to be something that gets this project rolling, but it needs to be the full project.”
After discussion about expanding in the current location, it was revealed by the Gardner that the land behind the current animal shelter is in the flood plain, which would increase the cost. Brinkley Sargent Wiginton’s representative also explained that just renovating or expanding the current facility would be “throwing good money at the bad.” He also added that reusing existing buildings would require a complete “gut job” of the interior in order to make it suitable for an animal shelter.
Wyers shared that the number of people, especially volunteers, who come out to the shelter is quite large. This project would not just be for the city and the animals but also for the citizens as well, Wyers said.
“We have a lot of people that come out there, and honestly, you’re inviting them out to a sewer treatment plant to come at look at some animals we’ve got in cages that are falling apart.”
Possible November ballot item
At Gardner’s suggestion, the city council authorized Wyers to work with city financial advisor Gary Kimble to come up with a measure to put on the November ballot and let the voters vote on whether they want a new facility, adding that should voters vote yes, that does not mean that a new facility has to be erected immediately. This would provide an opportunity to come up with a plan to produce funding.
“At least you get an idea of whether or not that’s something the citizens are interested in in their property tax dollars going to fund,” Gardner said.