An unofficial account by Sean Heatley, a Proud Frisco Resident
Fellow Frisco Residents and City Supporters,
A typical story would just jump straight into the topic at hand, but I want to take a few moments in this first issue to introduce myself and tell you how I got here. After today, I promise just to stick to the facts!
My wife and I are second time citizens of Frisco (2002-2004, 2013+). We knew from our first stint that once our family plans came to fruition Frisco would be our long-term home. By trade, I manage operations for small-to-medium venture funded companies and dabble in other start-up adventures.
While my business experiences have treated me well financially, they did not satisfy my sense of commitment to the community I live in.
I’ve lived or worked in most of the major cities in North Texas and survived a two-year weekly commute to Austin, with international trips littered in. I’ve seen a wide variety of cities, but as a whole, never found one quite as sound as Frisco.
When my daughter was born, I knew that it was time for my wife and I to get back to Frisco and become an active part of her environment. I’ve chosen to put myself in a position to inform those around me, influence critical topics, and sleep well at night knowing I was doing what I could for the betterment of my community.
After closing on our house last October, I began searching for committees and boards in which I could take part. What I found was an overwhelming variety of opportunities to get involved.
Following three months of searching and failed appointments, I stumbled onto a City of Frisco training course called “City Hall 101.” It’s a bit of a time commitment (once a week, 3-hr session, for 15 weeks), but on the path to the answers and access I was looking for, it is well worth it.
I sat through the first couple of sessions and found my head swimming with interesting and useful information about Frisco. So much so, that it felt it like an injustice to keep it to myself. So, I started an email series in my neighborhood, that in just a few weeks had made its way to surrounding neighborhoods.
Then, I had the good fortune to run into Wendi and Scott, owners of LifestyleFrisco.com, and now I am here, sharing what I’ve learned with you wonderful folks!
One final statement for the sake of disclosure. I am just a regular guy sharing some of his notes hoping to help some of you learn something interesting about the city you live in. I encourage you to visit the city website or by attending the class yourself when it starts again in August!
City Hall 101 – Your City Management
By definition, Frisco is a Council-Manager form of government. Translated, it is like a typical business in that we have Chief Executive Officers (Mayor Maso & The Six Councilmen – sounds like a fun band name) and a have a Chief Operating Officer (The City Manager).
The major difference from a standard company is that our CEO Team is volunteer-based. I’ll say that again… They volunteer their time to make sure you and I have live in a cutting-edge, safe, and sound city. Frisco City Council focuses on strategy, major policy, and critical tax decisions. They also act as the sounding board and decision makers on key public topics.
Our City Manager, George Purefoy, and his talented team are the backbone of the city tasked with running the day to day operations of Frisco, as well as planning growth, infrastructure, and long term sustainability strategies.
It is remarkable what our management team has been able to do in the last 10-15 years of rapid growth. In my opinion, they will continue to make us one of the flagship cities in the state!
A few stats:
- More than 92 million people live in cities operated by council-manager governments.*
- Approximately 48% of cities larger than 2,500 have Council-Manager governments.
- Frisco has almost 139,000 residents (Editors Note: as of March, 2014).
- Current City Council
- City Manager’s Office
*source: 2012 Municipal Year Book, published by ICMA
City Hall 101 – Your Fire Department!
If you ever wondered if our neighborhoods and city are safe and secure on the Fire/EMS front, fear no more! We are fortunate to have a state of the art Fire Management team that isn’t matched by many cities in the US.
Our Fire team has established Frisco as an I.S.O. “1” rated city. For perspective, there are only 55 Fire Departments in the US rated I.S.O. 1 out of 60,000 applicants! There are three major elements that make up the rating system:
- Water Supply, for putting out fires
- Emergency Systems and Planning
- Preparedness of the Fire Department and its equipment.
As homeowners, it means we get better rates on fire insurance and coverage is a no-brainer. The I.S.O. 1 rating is also important for attracting businesses as it offers them potential discounts and is an excellent selling point for the city.
A few stats:
- The Fire Department took 8,726 calls in 2013. About 55% of these were EMS related and the balance was either actual fire or assist calls (smoke detector calls excluded).
- There are six major types of trucks in our fleet:
- Fire Engine, Quints
- Fire Truck
- Special Operations Squad
- Command Center
(Go to the class and you get to ride up on one of the ~100 ft ladders – Super Cool!)
- The Fire Department will come change your smoke and carbon monoxide batteries free of charge. They only ask that you supply the battery.
- Unlike other cities, each Frisco Fire truck is equipped with everything an Ambulance would have, except the cot. They are also typically equipped with at least 2 EMS technicians who are certified to dress wounds, give drugs, etc.
Safety Town – Wow is all I can say!
If you are not familiar with Safety Town and have young kiddos, this is a must visit in Frisco.
Safety Town is a miniaturized city equipped with stop signs, automated lights, store fronts, and small roadways for kids to ride bikes and jeeps on while learning about outdoor safety. It is an incredible $3 Million dollar project that has had more than 250,000 visitors since opening six years ago.
In addition to outdoor education, they also have a complete fire truck and donated equipment on display so kids can see what it takes to keep our families safe. They also have an interactive “house” that allows them to teach kids about fire safety in the house, safe hiding, how to respond to TV bulletins, etc.
City Hall 101 – Your Police Department!
Some Basic Stats & Info
- There are a total of 221 employees in the Police Force. ~152 officers and the balance are civilians.
- The current ratio of Police to People is approximately 1.2 per 1,000 people. (we’re told this is in line with most cities)
- Our Department takes ~130,000 calls per year.
- From a patrol management perspective:
- Frisco is divided into four quadrants with Main/Preston as the Center Point.
- Within the 4 quadrants there are 13 districts a patrol person could get assigned to for their shift. Currently patrol shifts are 12 hours starting at 5am, 5:30am and 6pm.
- In a 14-day period, an officer will work seven 12hr shifts and one 8hr shift, often working in 2-3 day stretches. In the end it averages out to a 40hr week assuming no OT.
- The hiring cycle of one new officer is about 18 months from interview, academy and testing. Starting salary is $49-$51k depending on certifications. A college degree is not required but a large percentage of our force has one.
- A Police Tahoe outfitted with computers, lights, etc. costs around $60,000. They are run until they hit ~120k miles and then handed over to other groups within the department for continued use until the 200-250k mile mark.
A few community plugs…
- May 3rd is Safetypalooza
- May 17th is Frisco CAN (Community Awareness Night)
- This replaced the National Night Out formerly held on a hot August school night.
City Hall 101 – Development Services
Your first question, like mine was, may be something like, “What the heck are Development Services and why do I care?”
From thirty thousand feet, I would characterize the Development Services as one of two organizations that built to help protect residents, tax payers, and home owners/investors in this city. The partnering organization is Engineering Services, but I’ll get more into that in a later report.
Development Services consists of three major components:
- Planning & Zoning
- Health Service and Code Enforcement/Animal Control
Planning & Zoning (P&Z)
The Planning & Zoning team are forward-thinking strategists and day-to-day tactical analysts and workers. They generate and evaluate layers of detailed plans that look at the land mass of Frisco, annexation opportunities, thoroughfare maps, population density, demographics, retail maps, industrial maps, and last but not least, residential maps.
Planning & Zoning issues annual reports on demographics and monthly population reports. In addition, they present data changes and highlights to the City Council which present a risk or opportunity.
- There were 2,220 applications for new residential permits in 2013. (an average of 3.5 people per household, 7,770 new home residents + apartment renters)
- We have a Strategic Planning Committee comprised of approximately 25 people that start a 15-month meeting cycle every 4-5 years. The 25 people include city managers, P&Z personnel, local business owners, and residents. Their intent is to review the success of the prior plan, get new input, re-evaluate Frisco’s next 5-25 years and create an updated plan. Anyone can follow along on the Frisco Website in the Development Services section.
Inspections & Health Service
With the volume of labor and management turn-over in the construction industry, there is a continuous need for education with builders and sub-contractors.
Combined with the fast growth in Frisco, the team has had to add personnel to ensure residents have minimal exposure, while keeping team members focused on quality, not quantity.
- there are 14 City Approved Inspection Steps for a new house.
- If all 14 inspections were contiguous, it would take about 8 hours for a typical home. Two of these hours are spent red-tagging and educating. Also, most the medium- to high-end builders put their own inspections, as well as third-party inspections, in play. As a point of reference, our house had about 30 inspections by the time it was finished.
Code Enforcement/Animal Control
Their role is self explanatory; make sure residents are following the codes that City Council and residents have put in place.
This group has a tough job keeping everyone happy, but not as tough as neighboring cities that have not had the foresight to lay out plans with builders and developers early on.
Frisco doesn’t let just anything get built. It has to be aesthetically appealing, safe, functional, and must have a distinct path to maintenance and long range sustainability.
- Mosquitoes – this was a popular topic given the West Nile fluctuations we see in Texas.
- First, all experts agree that the single best way to prevent West Nile is to get rid of any and all standing water. Therefore, as conscious residents and neighbors, it is OUR responsibility to monitor our own properties and fix/report any issues in a timely manner.
- Mosquitoes prefer man-made breeding locations versus ponds or creeks. (bottle caps, French drains, toys that are left out, low soil spots that stay wet)
- Frisco has 7 fixed traps and 1 mobile one and all are monitored weekly. Per state law, the traps can only be on public property. The traps are filtered for female mosquito’s and either tested internally, or sent out depending on local experts and level of urgency. This is mandated by the state.
Frisco does not have an Animal Shelter. And, while it doesn’t “feel” good to say that, the cost of these shelters is a significant ongoing tax burden. With good prevention, there is not a need for one.
- We should be responsible pet owners. Chip your pets and register them with the city.
- Neighborhood Services
- There is a 5-star Neighborhood program – this means the neighborhood meets a set of criteria. Neighborhoods will not achieve 5-Star ratings by just filling out an application.
- There are block party trailers that we can borrow for free that include tables, chairs and few other items. You just have to reserve them online.
- HOA Roundtable – this is a collection of HOA presidents that discuss items or activities for the benefit of all.
- Frisco Services Community Garden – a new a donation garden that began as a collaboration between Frisco Family Services Center and the City of Frisco. The garden is open to everyone with the fruits and vegetables going to family services beneficiaries that need the help.
The compelling data from all the hard work of these groups is that Frisco has one of the top ratios of Tax Rate to Property Values. By this I mean that we have a lower tax rate then neighboring cities, but on the average, our property values are much, much higher.
A few of the cities in front of us include:
- University Park
- Highland Park
Folks, continue to enjoy your investment and know that the city has our interests in mind. Combined with a city-conscious HOA and good neighbors, we can continue to support the city plan!
For the sake of full disclosure, I am just a guy that has moved to Frisco a couple of times, with a wonderful wife and daughter, who wishes to have a positive effect on the environment my daughter will grow up in.
All of the information I am sharing is from notes, observations, or from the speakers that took their time to teach at City Hall 101 every Monday night. There are no political agendas at play, just want to help others who are new the state, city, or neighborhood.