Dallas Spends Repair Money Listing Repairs it Can't Afford

2006 bond money to fund building needs study

A divided Dallas City Council Wednesday voted to spend nearly $2 million in borrowed money to hire a consultant for an inventory of building repair needs, which the city has never compiled before.

The $1,942,862 is unspent repair money from a 2006 public improvement bond referendum.

“We knew our buildings needed repairs. The voters approved the repairs. And now we’re reprogramming this money to study how bad our buildings are. And to me that’s just not being fiscally responsible,” said Councilman Scott Griggs. “We need to be a city that just does things. If we know our buildings are bad, let’s fix them. And if we need to study it, let's study it ourselves.”

Officials said city people who could such a study are busy with other tasks.

“We can do this, but it would take six years to get in place instead of eight months,” City Manager A.C. Gonzalez said.

A City Council Committee briefing last month explained the challenge documenting the condition of buildings. Dallas has hundreds and hundreds of buildings with around 13 million square feet of space not including the Convention Center and city airports.

Equipment and Building Services Director Errick Thompson said there is no inventory of repair needs on which to base an annual maintenance budget.

“We can get a better handle on and do a better job maintaining the 13 million square feet of facilities that we have,” Thompson said.

The consultant study would also be used to prioritize larger building repairs to be included in a new Capital Improvement Bond referendum next year.

“I don’t know how you tell the citizens that we’re going to pay interest on helping a department to figure out how to borrow more money to pay more interest,” Councilman Philip Kingston said.

The clear city council priority for the next bond referendum is street repair and council members said there is nowhere near enough money for the building repair needs the study will identify, but a narrow majority decided the information is needed and consultants are the best way to get it.

“We’re operating, I think, responsibly. When we need to fix something, we fix it,” Councilmember Jennifer Staubach Gates said. “We need to step back and that takes some money to create a plan to move forward.”

Shifting bond money for the study was approved in an 8 to 6 vote.

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