WF back to the drawing board after municipal complex voted down

WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - Wichita Falls city leaders are trying to figure what to do with their police and fire stations, and city hall after Proposition D for a new Municipal Complex failed.

Now the attention has been shifted towards what to do with the buildings, particularly city hall.

Municipal Auditorium is almost 100 years old. It's sliding down a hill causing structural issues.

The police department is overcrowded by over 100 people and Fire Station 1 isn't big enough for all their equipment.

Also, neither Fire Station 1 or the police department are ADA compliment.

The city was hoping the new complex would fix the problems, but now they're back to the drawing board.

"We knew pretty well that it was going to be a tough road for a lot of the taxpayers here in the community to take on that large amount of tax increase for municipal facilities," Deputy City Manager, Jim Dockery said.

Not many, including city leaders and staff, were surprised to see Proposition D fail.

"The only hope was that maybe the firemen and police officers, their families, and a lot of the city employees would come out and vote," Mayor Santellana said. "I don't know if that happened or not. I really couldn't tell. But that's the hardest sell."

But many were surprised at the lopsided outcome. Regardless, it has the city looking at what to do next.

"That no vote didn't make the problem go away," Mayor Santellana said. "We'll dig deep into our budget and see where the future lands us. But right now we know that the municipal building needs some repair."

Early estimates have shown it could cost tens of millions of dollars to fix up city hall.

Mayor Santellana said he's still not comfortable with that option.

"I just still don't feel comfortable spending $20 to $30 million on that structure," he said. "I just don't think that's a wise spending of the citizen's money."

Dockery feels the same way.

"We'll come up with some options with the architect and go over those options with the city council," Dockery said. "But I don't think anyone up here wants to spend $30 million on this aged facility."

He and Mayor Santellana said all options are on the table right now. There's not a bad idea.

But in the meantime, the city will have to spend money to keep the current city hall running whether they like it or not.

"If the HVAC goes out then we're going to have to take care of it," Mayor Santellana said. "If the west wing is still falling off, we're going to have to take care of that. Regardless of the price tag, it's going to have to happen."

Dockery said there wasn't much the city could have done differently. But he thinks they might have rushed into putting it on a bond proposal too fast.

He added that if they had more time they could have done more education and spent more time explaining the process to property owners.

Mayor Santellana said Proposition D would have helped the city save a lot of money because of how much more energy efficient it would have been.

He said a future facility like the one they proposed could cost up to $150 million with the current raising of costs.

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