The City of Ferris hopes to one day soon put all of its services under one roof. Residents can vote on the proposed plan to create a new $12 million municipal center during the May election cycle, which beings Monday with early voting.
The center will house the city hall, council chambers, a new recreation and senior centers, as well as be the new home for the police and fire departments.
Ferris City Manager Bill Jordan stated the new facility would help the city efficiently serve residents and would allow for future growth. He shared the six current city buildings have limited capabilities.
“We have several issues. One is our police and fire facilities were condemned, and we put them into temporary construction trailers,” Jordan said. “Those trailers are nicer than what they had, but they are temporary, and they don’t have the features of a (regular) police and fire station.”
The police and fire department shared a joint facility on South Church Street when employees began to fall ill in October 2015. It was discovered that the buildings had a toxic environment that was created by black mold and rat feces. Staff and equipment were moved out and had remained in the trailers on Ewing Street since.
Jordan explained the trailer that houses the police department does not have a jail and the space used to store evidence is a converted office. The department has an interlocal agreement with the City of Red Oak to house prisoners. However, the transportation of a prisoner along with adjoining paperwork can take an officer out of service for about two hours.
Jordan stated the fire department faces similar issues. It is located in the trailer next to the police department on Ewing Street.
“It is the same thing with the fire station. It has an office that has been converted for the guys to sleep in. One of the offices has been converted into a bathroom and a shower, but there is no place to store our fire engines,” Jordan stated. “We have an awning so the engines can sit out there out of the sun. Of course, if it is freezing the water inside the fire engine would freeze, and water expands when it freezes. It tears up pumps. When it rains, it turns into the mud. It is just a poor situation all around.”
Jordan added the city has found response times to be longer since firefighters have to drive to other locations to pick up equipment.
The space for the new police station will have a jail with three cells to allow the separation prisoners. If additional space is needed, an interlocal agreement with the Ellis County Sherriff’s Office and the Red Oak Police will remain in place to house prisoners. An enclosed sally port will be on the outside of the building to allow the safe transfer of prisoners to the jail. The facility will also provide office space for detectives, administration, and staff members.
The space for the fire department will have space for its equipment and vehicles. Some of the department’s current vehicles are still being stored at the closed station and station two.
“They will have pull-through bays so there will be no backing up. The station itself will have a bathroom, showers, decontamination showers, equipment storage, the day room, the full kitchen, and all the offices they need,” Jordan said. “It will be a full fire station and fire headquarters all in one. So they will have the ability to have the guys there 24-7 plus the administrative staff will have their space.”
Jordan explained station two is owned by the Ellis County Emergency Service District Five, which helps support the fire department. The city is looking to use both stations allowing equipment to be accessed from either side of the railroad tracks that divide the city.
Due to the requirement for security, the fire and police stations in the municipal center direct access to these sections are restricted. Doors with key cards will only allow staff members to access those areas. Residents who need to speak with an officer or a firefighter will be directed to a reception window in the main entrance.
The building will also be the home to the city hall, council chambers, the finance department, the senior and recreation centers.
City Hall is currently inside the old train depot on Main Street, while the council chambers are in a commercial building on West Sixth Street, the finance department is on South Central Street and the senior center in First Baptist Church on Fifth Street.
Ferris does not currently have a recreation center.
Jordan stated the way city hall is set up a person has to walk through several offices and sometimes a conference room to access different parts of the building. This makes it challenging to have meetings with members of the public, community leaders, and developers. With city offices spread out at locations around the community makes it difficult for the public to conduct business.
“We have three different buildings that house what should be in a city hall," Jordan said. "So we know that we have a space issue.”
Jordan stated the city owns the train depot but not the land. The land is on the railroad right of way. The city pays rent on the property.
The senior center was in a building rented by the city. When the owner of the building did not make repairs, the center was moved into First Baptist Church in the interim.
The municipal center will have space for city offices, the council chambers, and the senior and recreation center. The recreation center will have a full-sized indoor basketball court with pull out bleachers. There will also be classrooms as well.
To construct this 37,000 square foot facility the city will use modular buildings. These building would be built by Ramtech Building Systems. The buildings would be built offsite in a factory and then would be attached to a concrete foundation on site.
According to the Ramtech website, it has operated for the past 40 years and has 3,500 completed projects and continues to be a national leader and innovator in the development of relocatable commercial modular buildings. Ramtech’s buildings have been built for commercial, healthcare, governmental and educational uses.
“We took a tour of their factory as well, and they were building an airport terminal inside their factory. That is the ability that this type of construction has,” Jordan explained. “I think that people hear modular and they think that we are going to roll a couple of trailers in. It is not going to be that way by any means. It will be a very impressive building when it is done.”
He added traditional construction is about $250-$350 a square foot. With modular construction, the cost is about $150 a square foot. The $12 million price will include the buildings construction, landscaping, extending a water line to the building, the parking, and furnishing the building.
The site for the new facility is on 26 acres that the city owns in the 700 block of South Central Street. The municipal center would take up less than four acres of the property. If passed by voters, construction could start as early as August and take about a year to complete.
Once the project is complete, the cities are looking to possibly lease part of the old train depot to the chamber of commerce and create museum space in the remaining portion. The finance building and the council chambers would be put up for sale. The trailers housing the police and fire departments would be picked up the company that owns them. The condemned building would be either be demolished or redeveloped.
Jordan encourages residents to make their voice heard at the ballot box on May 5.
For more information about the municipal bond, projects go to the city website at www.ferristexas.gov.