HPD in full facility recovery with squeezes and ‘make-dos’

Tom Kennedy

As expected and as history proved, HPD weathered the worst flooding in Houston history with quick and effective improvisations and a well-planned remediation mode.

To date, some temporarily displaced divisions are back together in their old locations, while others are in makeshift quarters that have been “squeezed-in” situations.

Meanwhile, the Department fits into Mayor Sylvester Turner’s overall work in progress for remodeled or replacement facilities for all city departments  affected by the floods of Hurricane Harvey.

HPD has demonstrated resourcefulness in the interim.

In one case, Southwest Division, aka “Beechnut,” will operate out of Southeast Division until the opening of a brand-new facility in Cambridge Village Park in November.

HPD had a plan for the flood and now has a plan for the flood recovery. Executive Assistant Chief Matt Slinkard provided some particulars to the HPOU’s general membership meeting on Oct. 5.

“As you can image with the storm being so devastating with 51 inches of water,” Slinkard said, “we knew the Department was going to have problems. We did a good job of fortifying. Unfortunately, the flood waters rose so fast that several stations were inundated with water.”

In some cases, such as Midwest and Southwest stations, officers lost their personal vehicles, patrol vehicles – or both.

“Despite these overwhelming challenges,” Slinkard said, “HPD continued to operate during the storm. We still have challenges ahead.

“All in all I think that we had a lot of challenges during the storm, as anybody with 51 inches of rain would. I’m proud of officers on the front line and their leadership. We continued to work and made things happen.

“We turned hotel rooms into stations and kept doing what needed to be done.”

The EAC made reference to one particular quick-fix:

“Traffic Enforcement at 62 Riesner was displaced,” he said. “It was difficult to find a temporary location. The Hilton Americas Hotel opened its conference rooms and ball rooms to use and we operated there during the storm.”

Slinkard reported the current status of damaged HPD facilities and the near-term remediation or replacement plans thusly:

  • Southwest Division will be “squeezed in” with Southeast Division until the new Southwest facility is opened in December. The old Beechnut will become part of the Department of Parks and Recreation. Coincidentally, the new Southwest actually adjoins an existing city park.
  • HPD jail facilities. Central Jail is “unusable” and may not reopen. Meanwhile, the Southeast Jail will be open until next August when the Harris County joint processing center will enable officers to do direct booking, effectively putting HPD out of the jail business.
  • The Traffic Enforcement Division is in the process of moving back into 62 Riesner, where its facilities did not suffer damage as severe as 61 Riesner
  • Central Patrol Division, which was not as fortunate, will continue operating out of the third floor of 33 Artesian.
  • Midwest Division was temporarily displaced but was able to resume operations on premises.
  • The Vehicular Crimes Division will operate out of North Patrol Station until further notice.
  • Radio Shop is waiting on repairs but is back on line at 61 Riesner. It will need some repairs but can still operate at the Riesner location.
  • Special Operations Division was displaced and has shared some space with Downtown Division at 1900 Rusk and hopefully will be able to move back to Riesner with some repairs and remediation.
  • Kingwood Station required some remediation from roof and water damage but was not required to do any temporary displacement.

Chief Slinkard stressed that the capital improvements necessary to get the Department’s facilities back in operational order will be part of the city’s overall remediation plan affected every city department. He said it was too early to say if the plan would entail “just to get things back and not provide upgrades” to HPD’s obviously aged facilities.

“We obviously have about $2 million in damages,” he said, referring to probable repairs and not upgrades or total replacements. He expressed optimism about the ongoing requirements to “squeeze over and make some room for colleagues to come over.”

“We still don’t have the answers yet,” Slinkard said. “We don’t know how Riesner will be remediated or if we’ll be able to use all the properties there.”