Houston Eyes New Police Quarters

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—DALLAS  Houston is considering finance options for a new police headquarters and courthouse complex to replace facilities that are 62 years old and require $55 million worth of repairs.

The new complex could cost $500 million, according to one city council member's estimate. Mayor Annise Parker said she is seeking ways to avoid a tax increase to finance the deal.

The city is turning its attention to the law-enforcement facilities two months after voters in Houston and Harris County approved a $70 million bond issue for a combined city and county inmate processing center.

When that facility is built, the city will be able to close two jails. The processing center is designed to eliminate overlap in city and county booking practices. The new center will eliminate the need to book inmates into a city jail before repeating the process to hold them in a county jail.

Houston's central jail is the largest of five buildings that make up the city's justice complex northwest of downtown. The 18-acre site also serves 1,000 Houston Police Department staff and a courthouse.

Damages from a sinkhole caused by a leaking sewer pipe and other repairs would cost about $55 million to repair, according to a city study.

The city would sell its undersized police headquarters if the city council approves a plan to build a new one.

While a bond issue is the traditional method for financing the proposed city law enforcement facility, Parker said she is also considering public-private partnerships and other alternatives. Using lease-revenue debt, ownership would revert to the city after the debt is retired.

Seven firms answered requests for qualifications in August.  The city council will hire legal counsel and a construction manager to help draft the formal request for proposals and to represent the city during the process.

The original date to seek proposals from firms was pushed to March from October.

Parker said she hopes to break ground by the time she leaves office at the end of 2015.

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