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New building considered by commissioners

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Bandera County commissioners later this month will consider hiring a consultant to look at the space needs of county offices in the coming years and how best to address those needs, which could set the stage for the construction of a multi-million-dollar office complex on county-owned land.

That was the direction that arose from a discussion by commissioners at their regular meeting on Thursday, May 28, on the future use of the Emergency Medical Service building the county owns on Main Street that will be vacated later this summer when a modernized and more centrally located EMS headquarters is completed and on the building needs of existing county offices.

What commissioners heard was that many county offices are already overcrowded and in need of more space as their operations continue to grow and that a new office building two-or-three stories in size could be the best way to supply the needed space, bring far flung county offices together at one site, reduce lease and maintenance costs and improve security in county offices.

Commissioner Bobby Harris was the first one to suggest that a new county office building might be the best way to solve the county’s growing space needs, and Commissioner Jody Rutherford said that proposal appeared to be “on the right track.”

“We need to get working on this,” said Rutherford. “The county is growing, let’s face it.”

County Judge Richard Evans said after the meeting that a pretty strong consensus arose among commissioners that consolidating various county agencies at a new office complex would be the best solution though no official vote was taken on the matter since the issue was on the court’s agenda for discussion only last week.

Evans too considered the new construction option as the best long-term approach to resolving the county’s space needs from both a cost and security perspective.

First however, commissioners want to see more clearly how much space the various county agencies currently occupy and how much more space they feel they will need in the coming years so they will know more about how large a new building will need to be and how much it will cost or if another option would resolve the space crunch in a more effective way.

The court will solicit requests for proposals from architects and other consultants to conduct that study and to help the county decide which option is best, which should be on the agenda for a vote in the first meeting this month.

Bandera County Justices of the Peace Mike Towers and Lynn Holt along with Bandera County Tax Assessor-Collector and Elections Officer Gwenda Tschirhart were among those advising commissioners that more space for agencies was sorely needed in the county.

Tschirhart said all three of the agencies in the tax assessor’s office, including the county’s veteran services officer, need more space. A new office of at least three-stories would be the minimum needed to address the county’s space needs as she understood them, Tschirhart said.

Commissioner Harris said he would anticipate that a three-story building would cost about $3 million, but that estimate could be refined based on what the consultant reports.

The likely site for a new building would be on property the county already owns on 12th Street between the tax-assessor’s office and the county auditor’s office or around the Bandera County Attorney’s office on 11th Street in Bandera, officials said.

Those sites would reduce the cost of the building project since the land is already owned and are close enough to the county courthouse to make things easier for taxpayers and others with business to do at the county.

The current EMS building at 1107 Main St. in Bandera could be sold to help pay for any new construction or could be retained and used as temporary offices for agencies that need to relocate because of the anticipated construction, officials said

The consultant will advise the county on the best use of the EMS building as well.

Also at their Thursday meeting, commissioners voted to increase the fee charged out-of-county visitors to Medina Lake County Park from $5 a person to $10 a person and to eliminate the annual pass fee for out-of-county visitors to the park as a result of the large number of out-of-county visitors who are packing the park now that facility has reopened in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and started discussing the creation of volunteer teams to pick up trash along the rightof-ways on county roads as part of an initiative recommended by Commissioner Rutherford.

Funding needs for those crews and other details of the plan will need further review, Rutherford said, but the initiative appears to have broad support on the court.