Sunday, August 9, 2009

Baby steps to the future

One thing that has impressed me about Comal County and the folks involved in its governance is the deliberative process they engage in when planning projects, particularly of this size.

The plans are not grandiose, nor outlandishly out-sized, nor are they an attempt to project someone's will or ego on the public.

Its a "let's roll up our sleeves" and take care of business attitude more usually found in a private business or corportaion rather than in most of today's governing bodies. More's the pity that more entities aren't like this.

Justice Center parking tops Council meeting


The Comal County Justice Center could move a step closer to becoming a reality during Monday night’s New Braunfels City Council meeting.

The county is expected to ask the New Braunfels City Council to allow it to begin construction on the justice center without first meeting the city’s mandatory parking requirements for a building of that size.

County Commissioners have discussed the need for the planned three-story, 90,000 square-foot facility in commissioners court this month, saying it would address inadequate security at the current courthouse annex, as well as provide more office space to allow county departments to grow in the future.

But commissioners have yet to vote on whether to build the facility — one with an estimated $36 million price tag that would make it the most expensive county-funded construction project in history.

The first major financial commitment toward building it, as well as a new parking garage to accommodate county employees and downtown visitors, could come Monday.

The proposed intergovernmental agreement would require the county to set aside upward of $2 million in a city fund to ensure the county will provide the necessary parking for the justice center within five years of its completion.

“It’s the public equivalent of a surety bond,” said New Braunfels City Manager Mike Morrison. “It gives us assurance that the parking garage they’ve committed to building will be built.”

Currently slated to be built along Seguin Avenue from Bridge to Zink streets, the justice center would require 203 parking spaces, according to Monday’s city council agenda packet. And at $10,000 per space, the county will be required to offer $2,030,000 as part of a commitment to build the garage, which would be located across Seguin Avenue from the new justice center where the Tax Assessor-Collector’s office is now. That building would be demolished.

County commissioners, who would then approve their end of the interlocal agreement at a special meeting Tuesday, said it was a necessary first step to building the massive justice center.

“We needed to do this so we could move forward,” said Jan Kennady, Pct. 4 Commissioner, “and as soon as the city gives us the green light, we can start approving all the other plans for the justice center.”

Both the city and county already have a separate interlocal agreement in place to collaborate to fund the parking garage, which city and county officials agree is badly needed within the next five years as the city continues to grow.

“We in the county know that we’ll have to have a parking garage downtown,” Kennady said, “but (the interlocal agreement) gives us time to complete the justice center.”