Fort Worth

Mayor says north Fort Worth patrol division is in 2016 budget

A police patrol division for the booming area of north Fort Worth will be included in the 2016 budget, Mayor Betsy Price said Wednesday during her annual State of the City address.
A police patrol division for the booming area of north Fort Worth will be included in the 2016 budget, Mayor Betsy Price said Wednesday during her annual State of the City address. Star-Telegram archives

A sixth patrol division planned for the far north will be included in next year’s budget, Mayor Betsy Price said at the annual State of the City Address.

But details about how the project will be financed — the estimated cost is $12 million to $13 million — and where it will be located have yet to be hashed out.

“It is a multi-year process, but we simply have to prioritize it,” Price said in an interview after her address. “It won’t be fully staffed. We can’t afford to get all the officers we need up there in one budget cycle. But we are going to look at the solution.”

Spurred by the development of the Alliance Corridor, the population of far north For Worth — generally north of Loop of 820 and west and east of Interstate 35W — grew 114 percent from 2000 to 2010, when the census counted 210,000 residents.

Police have not been able to keep and with the growth, which is reflected in response times, city officials have said.

Councilman Danny Scarth, who is helping lead the project, said they are “pressuring staff pretty hard to get this thing put to bed.”

“I really thought by today we would have more concrete details on how it will be financed and where it will be,” Scarth said.

Scarth said he hopes the facility can open in the fall of 2016.

Price pushes elections

Speaking to a packed ballroom at the Fort Worth Convention Center, Price also urged voters to get out in the May 9 and said she is endorsing all of the City Council incumbents.

Council members in contested races are: Sal Espino facing challenger Steven Thornton; Danny Scarth facing Cary Moon; Gyna Bivens facing Bob Willoughby; Dennis Shingleton facing Andy Gallagher and Kelly Allen Gray facing Sharon Mason-Ford.

“This is a great team,” Price said during her speech. “I am proud to work with them and each one of them deserves to be returned this year. You get that? We’ve got an election shortly.”

Price also endorsed incumbents Marty Leonard and Jim Lane running for their spots on the Tarrant Regional Water District, which has been embroiled in a protracted legal battle with a wealthy Dallas businessman .

Dallas hotel magnate Monty Bennett has fought with TRWD over a section of its $2.3 billion pipeline running through his property in Henderson County. Three candidates are running against Lane and Leonard and Bennett is expected to throw his financial support behind two opponents, Craig Bickley and Michele Von Luckner.

“One critical election — they are all critical — is the Tarrant Regional Water District,” Price said.

“Our water has been incredibly successful and a huge part of why Fort Worth has been there,” Price said. “Get educated and learn about this race. It could affect our future.”

Pensions are a ‘done deal’

Price said the “sustainable” changes the city has made to police, fire and general employees pensions are a “done deal,” though the city is still facing lawsuits over the issue.

Both the Fort Worth Police Officers Associations and the Fort Worth Professional Firefighters have active lawsuits against the city regarding the legality of the changes.

The council reduced the multiplier used to calculate benefits from 3 percent to 2.5 percent and raised to five years the number of high-salary years used to determine a firefighter’s retirement pay. Overtime that is not built into the pay base is not included.

Focusing on education

Price also proposed the creation of a mayor’s advisory roundtable on education to find corporate champions for education. She said local school districts want to hear from the companies about what is needed in the workforce.

“How can we help the school districts define the workforce businesses need and how can we help businesses get their employees back in the schools?” Price said.

She is not yet ready to announce the leadership of the committee.

Staff writer Bill Hanna contributed to this report.

Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984

Twitter: @catyhirst