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Commissioners to plan new Travis County complex

Monday, January 14, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

County Commissioners will begin planning a new county complex in earnest Tuesday, appointing committees to begin what is expected to be two years of work to include all potential stakeholders in a new complex for the county’s expanding services.

 

Commissioners Court briefly discussed, and then postponed, firm decisions on the committees’ membership at last week’s meeting. Tomorrow, the court could agree on the membership of an executive-level policy and strategy committee of stakeholders; a working-level staff committee; and a citizens’ advisory committee. The elected officials also intend to outline a public input process.

 

At a workshop session in November, court members agreed a comprehensive approach to the county’s compounding space constraints would be best. Initially, the discussion pinpointed the need for additional civil courts. The county also has been strapped for space in any number of service areas.

 

Auditor Susan Spataro drafted a letter about the campus planning process. She wanted to stress that this was not a whim; rather, it was a comprehensive effort to address needs. The county owns a number of properties downtown. The county owns some space and rents other space. The goal is to make sure all those pluses and minuses can be incorporated as an overall strategy for the county.

 

“Travis County has serious space shortages in its downtown campus and will have to embark on several large construction projects in the near future in order to avoid crisis in its ability to deliver services to a rapidly growing population,” Spataro read aloud, then added, “I think it’s very important to tie this to need and services because we are not just tired of the buildings we have or think it would be nice if we have something else. This really is impeding our ability to deliver services, and I think that’s an important message to get out to our population.”

 

Instead of looking at each building individually to address space needs, Travis County is considering a multi-project capital improvement approach, Spataro said. The letter also stressed that the county wants to be respectful of the capital view corridors, local residential neighborhoods and downtown retail.

 

Commissioners considered a number of issues: County Judge Sam Biscoe noted that it would be difficult to guarantee diversity until all committee members were named and added that it was important that each committee member understand it was a significant commitment across two years. Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt raised questions about whether the committees should draft their own charges. Commissioner Margaret Gomez volunteered to serve as the ex-officio member on the advisory committee.

 

Between last week and this week, commissioners will consider appointments to the committees; the differentiation in charges among the committees; and the proper balance of appointments among the stakeholders impacted by the decisions.

 

Commissioners will take up the issue on Tuesday afternoon.

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