The Houston City Council’s Police and Fire Committee gathered Tuesday to discuss various matters related to the departments, including the proposal for a new training facility and updates from the fire and police departments.
The meeting covered important points such as the facility’s design, funding options, revenue generation, training initiatives and the need for additional resources. The committee members expressed their support for the departments and explored ways to enhance their effectiveness.
Robbie Smith, fire chief, presented a handout detailing the rendering and capabilities of the proposed training facility, which would be located on Opportunity Circle, in the Houston Industrial Park off West Highway 17. The estimated cost of the facility is approximately $670,000, made in four payments. A portion of the city sales tax that helps support the fire department would be used. Chief Smith mentioned the long-term plan to include classrooms within the facility and expressed interest in exploring grant funding opportunities. Unfortunately, at the time, no grant funding has become available.
The committee highlighted the potential benefits of attracting other departments to use the facility. The timeline for construction, following council approval and order submission, is estimated to be around nine months.
The facility would allow the department to host training that is rarely available in Missouri, bringing revenue into Houston through local spending.
Smith advised that waiting until the next year to proceed with the training facility could increase its cost by 15-20%.
Smith reassured the committee that the facility would not create any additional liability for the city.
The fire department has 27 active personnel, with approximately two-thirds of those being certified.
Brad Evans, police chief, discussed the approval of a $52,000 MoDOT grant for new computers in patrol cars. He also mentioned the ongoing process of transferring data from the server to the cloud for the police department. Chief Evans highlighted the recent training initiatives undertaken by the department, including attendance at a chief’s conference and hosting a Taser class with participants from several states. He also mentioned the valuable contributions from MIRMA, the Missouri Intergovernmental Risk Management Association, which provided funding for training and equipment.
Lt. Matt Woodmansee informed the committee about upcoming training opportunities for department members. Travis Thompson, sergeant, is close to completing leadership training through the FBI academy. Woodmansee also introduced a new member, AJ Rodts, to the committee.
Evans discussed the need for increased manpower, particularly in investigating complex cases, and expressed the desire to have a full-time detective.
The police department reported using LensLock for distributing footage, which has saved considerable time. They proposed acquiring car cameras from LensLock at a discounted price and mentioned the need to replace radar units during the “Arrive Alive” campaign. The department also highlighted an issue with Ford Explorer headlights and discussed potential solutions.
Evans shared positive feedback from the officers regarding the practice of taking vehicles home and mentioned the improved cleanliness and care given to the vehicles. He suggested exploring the possibility of providing car wash tokens to officers.
The department also discussed School Resource Officer Josh Green’s training in deterring crimes related to electronics, highlighting the increased efficiency in processing digital evidence. The department emphasized the need for improved technology and training to handle complex cases.
The issue of changing 1099s to W2s for officers to assist with taxes was raised. The question of whether this could also be implemented for reserve officers was discussed.
Updates on the drug dog’s performance and certification were provided. The dog, Omen, will be finished with training Thursday, May 25, according to Evans.
General morale within the departments was addressed, with Chiefs Smith and Evans assuring the committee that everything is going well.
The committee expressed the desire to have more frequent meetings, with the idea of meeting once a quarter. A suggestion was made to hold monthly committee meetings, similar to Waynesville, to allow for more in-depth discussions and increased productivity compared to council meetings.
The committee adjourned at 6:45 p.m., after 75 minutes of discussion.