Published December 11, 2014
By Devin Corbitt, The Belton Journal
The Belton City Council began Tuesday night’s meeting on a high note by swearing in three new Belton Police Officers and one new Belton Firefighter.
Belton Police Chief Gene Ellis introduced his newest officers, Daric Henderson, Gerardo “Gerry” Torres and Christopher MacDonald. The officers graduated from the Temple Police Academy on Monday.
“The amazing thing was this was the highest academic average for the Temple Police Department, in combination with Temple College Academy. They had over a 90 percent average, an A average, in the class. This academy requires that you have an 80 percent (or higher) on all exams and an 85 on the final to even pass the academy, so it’s a little bit higher standard than many academies,” Ellis said. “The (new BPD officers’) average on the state exam was over 90 percent, and the statewide average was only 73 percent. So our cadets performed at high levels, and we’re very proud of these gentlemen.”
Henderson came to Texas after serving four years in the United States Army. He is engaged to Susan and has one child.
Gerardo “Gerry” Torres is a native Texan, retired from U.S. Army after 22 years of service. He and his wife, Nicci, have been married for 22 years and have three children.
Christopher MacDonald was one of 12 children. He served six years in U.S. Army before coming to Texas with his wife, Cynthia.
“I’m also pleased to announced that for the first time in the 5 ½ years that we’ve sponsored people in the police academy, we finally got the Honor Cadet status, which is the top academic (in the entire academy),” Ellis said. “We’ve been within hundredths of a point many times, and Officer Christopher MacDonald was Honor Cadet and top academic performing, beating out a Harker Heights officer by hundredths of a point.”
The officers will now begin Field Officer Training with the department.
Belton Fire Chief Francisco Corona also proudly introduced his newest staff member, Ethan White. White hails from Little River-Academy, where he lives with his wife and daughter. He received medical training from Temple College and worked for Scott and White Medical Transport before deciding to pursue a career as a firefighter/medic.
“He was a 4.0 student, so Ethan White is a top candidate, and that’s why he is here,” Corona said.
The meeting maintained its positive changes to Belton with the approval of renovations and additions to the Belton Police Department. The council approved an amended contract with a Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) that includes a Guaranteed Maximum Price of just over $2.7 million, including select essential and beneficial elements. The project aims to construct a, 8,343 square foot building adjacent to the current Police Department, additional staff parking, an emergency generator and a wash bay. The existing building would also undergo renovations to accommodate construction of the new building at that time. Several additional renovations for the current building are also planned once the new building is complete, bringing the total cost of the additions and renovations to approximately $3.2 million. $2.1 million of that has already been set aside, leaving $1.1 million needed to complete the entire project. Council approved the use of a 2013 bond issue to cover those remaining costs.
The initial phases of the project began in 2008, and planning took nearly five years. Baird Williams Construction was chosen as the Construction Manager at Risk earlier this year, and they spent the spring and summer designing the construction with the BPD. BPD hopes to complete the project by next October.
“We’re finally at the last step of this before dirt is pushed,” Chief Ellis said. “It’s been a long process.”
The city’s infrastructure also received positive news Tuesday night, as the council approved the final phase of the West Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, formerly 9th Avenue, extension, which will extend the street from Main Street to Loop 121. The project will construct 2,900 feet of roadway, including 1,600 feet of roadway extension and a bridge across the creek.
Costs were estimated at $5.1 million by Kasberg, Patrick and Associates, LP (KPA), design engineer for the project. However, two of the four bids received for the project came in under the projected price, one was just over and the fourth was approximately $300,000 over projected costs.
“This is really good news,” Mike Huber, Public Works Director, said.
James Construction Group was awarded the bid with a total cost of $4,151,821.70. The bid was set up with a two-part structure: Part A containing expenses transportation improvements (approximately $4 million) and Part B containing water and sewer components (approximately $117,000).
The project has been completely funded, with about $6.775 available through federal earmarks, grants, donations and water/sewer funds. Total costs committed, including property taxes and fees, come to $5,399,801.
“What that leaves us with is about $1.4 million in available project funds,” Huber said. “We know, with a project of this scope, we will see change orders, but what we would really like to see is the improvement of the intersection where MLK Ave. will tie into Loop 121 so that when that section opens, we have a traffic light and turning lanes and we have the safety improvements we would like to see from Day 1.”
The council conducted a public hearing on a Certificate of Obligation (CO) that would begin the process of obtaining $4.5 million for an Automated Meter Infrastructure (AMI) that would allow the city to replace water meters. However, the city opted to pursue a loan for the project rather than purchasing the system outright. The council will meet next week to further discuss their options.
This week’s consent agenda included the reappointment of Griff Lord and Chris Moore for an additional three-year term with the Belton Economic Development Corporation, authorizing the City Manager to acquire 207 Smith Street at a purchase price of $5,500 and a share of closing costs, and ordinances that grants various commercial solid waste collection franchises. The agenda was passed unanimously.