In somewhat lopsided fashion, Ferris voters axed a bond proposal that hoped to create a new Ferris Municipal Center.
The $12 million center would have created space for city offices, council chambers, a senior and recreation center, and the police and fire departments. Roughly 82 percent of registered voters vetoed the project.
Ferris Police Chief Eddie Salazar stated while the vote was disappointing it does not mean new facilities won’t be built in the future — it just may take a little longer. The Ferris Police and Fire Departments operated out of construction trailers since the old building they used was condemned in 2015.
“I think the general consensus from what I heard from everyone was to scale the project down and bring it back to us,” Salazar said. “So it is not a dead issue from what I am assuming. They just want us to scale it down because ultimately who is paying for it? The taxpayers.”
Salazar stated the facility the police department operates out of does have some limitations such as a lack of a jail. Ferris has an inter-local agreement with the City of Red Oak to house prisoners at its facility. Officers can be out of the city for about an hour when transporting a prisoner.
“We are here. At least we have a roof over our heads, and a secure facility,” Salazar explained. “Granted, it is not the most accommodating buildings for a police and a fire department, but it is a building nonetheless. We will make due with it until we move into a more permanent facility.”
Salazar added the department has a contingency plan in place in case a tornado would hit the building. The Ellis County Sheriff’s Office has also agreed to pick up calls if something were to happen. Ferris dispatchers would then operate out of the sheriff’s office facility until the department's infrastructure is reestablished.
During the day, officers can seek shelter at business next-door during the day for shelter, but a contingency is not in place for nighttime shifts.
“You know we all wanted a new building. That is disappointing, but at the same time, I put myself in the taxpayers' shoes too. Their taxes were going to go up," Salazar noted. “The concern is also for these people that are 65 years and older who are on a fixed income. It is hard for them to make up that difference. I empathize with them I am sympathetic. What I do like is that they said, ‘let's revisit this on a smaller scale.’ They didn’t flat out say no. They said, ‘bring it back to us.’”
Ferris City Manager Bill Jordan said city staff hadn't met with the council to discuss a new action plan. He noted that it is too early to tell if the city is going to go with a scaled down version of its original plan for the municipal center.
“It is too early to tell. We have got new members coming onto the council who will want to be involved with that decision, and I can’t really judge where they are going to fall on the decision,” Jordan said. “So it is kind of too early to tell.”
Jordan stated once the new council is seated the facilities issue would be discussed probably sometime in June.