NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Sun-filled visiting rooms border a turf courtyard on one end. Security cameras and steel doors monitor cell blocks on the other end. An $8.6 million regional jail and animal adoption center are all but finished in Keller.
CBS 11 News got an exclusive look inside the new facility that serves four cities, potentially saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.
Now the question – will this kind of combined service lead other North Texas cities to join the trend?
By bankbook standards, the building is more than $8 million worth of stone and steel. It’s one project that has two jobs.
The new 21,000 square foot expansion will nearly quadruple the room for holding inmates and animal, from Keller, Southlake, Colleyville and Westlake. The facility also means city leaders can hold off on asking taxpayers to build one in each city.
Keller police chief Mark Hafner said funding for each particular city would be precarious. “They would all need detention officers, kennel techs, where we can put all three cities together along with our partnership with Westlake and bring this forward in a real efficient model.”
The model has a history among the partner cities. The joint project is part of an ongoing effort by the Northeast Tarrant County communities to share services and cut costs. The cities already share a jail and communication center. Keller and Colleyville share a municipal court.
Initially, the sharing of services would seem like easy changes to make. “Actually they’re not,” explained Southlake police chief Steve Mylett. “Because each municipality has their own identity and each has their own needs.”
That need for local identity, leaders from each city told us, limits how far the savings can go.
Sharing crime analysis or libraries might be possible, but maybe nothing beyond that.
Colleyville police chief Michael Holder believes that city autonomy is necessary. “Having our people in our individual communities who know the community, who develop relationship, that’s extremely important.”
Even just agreeing on rules for the new animal adoption center has been a challenge. Colleyville still hasn’t voted on how the facility will handle strays from the city.
The current facility and agreed partnership is big enough that there may even be room for more cities to get involved. Representatives from Roanoke were touring along with other city leaders Friday.
Keller built the new facilities with revenue from a quarter-cent sales tax increase. The other cities will pay Keller, depending on how much they use the facilities.
Both buildings will be open to the public from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, February 22. It will be the only time the public will be able to see the facilities before they open this Spring. According to Hafner, the jail could be receiving inmates within the next couple weeks.
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