By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald

When the Killeen City Council began discussions on building a new, green police headquarters, some members thought they were talking about color, former City Councilman Dick Young said Tuesday.

Young helped initiate the effort to build a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified Killeen Police Department Headquarters eight years ago.

Luckily, he said, addressing a crowd gathered at the building to watch Police Chief Dennis Baldwin accept a LEED Gold award from the U.S. Green Building Council, Killeen caught on to the environmentally friendly meaning of the word.

The finished building, with advanced water- and energy-saving features including more than 350 geothermal wells for heating and cooling, is even greener than the city planned. The original goal was to gain a LEED Silver certification. Last spring, it was determined that the building qualified for LEED Gold, the second-greenest certification level.

Baldwin thanked the city for its commitment to the long-term project. In addition to saving the city $80,000 annually in energy costs, he said, the building’s natural light, design and amenities make it a great place to work.

“I know it’s a lot of up-front costs, but that’s the payback,” he said.

The $27 million, 80,000-square-foot headquarters at the corner of Chaparral and Featherline roads opened in May 2010.

Police Lt. Alex Gearhart, a Killeen police officer for the last 17 years, said it’s hard to overstate the difference between the department’s former, bunker-style downtown headquarters and its new one.

“To say it’s night and day doesn’t do it justice,” he said, adding that he especially appreciates the in-house gym and advanced technological systems.

Interim City Manager Glenn Morrison said the ceremony was the “culmination of a team effort.”

As the first LEED-certified city building, he said, it “sets a benchmark for Killeen.”

There are only two LEED-certified police headquarters in Texas. The other is in Dallas. Dallas-based architect Don Wertzberger, of PSA Dewberry, worked on both projects.

When a city invests in a project like this, he said, it signals “forward thinking about the future and children and our children’s future.”