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County advances plan for new community center

Thursday, February 26, 2015 by Caleb Pritchard

Travis County Commissioners inched closer toward approving a project to replace an aging community center in Del Valle on Tuesday afternoon.

With a 4-0 vote, they approved the reallocation of $161,805 for the early stages of work on a proposed new facility that could eventually house a permanent health clinic.

It would replace the Precinct 4 South Community Center at 3518 FM 973, a building “in need of major renovations,” according to Facilities Management Division officials. Travis County Health and Human Services shares the 5,086-square-foot space with a Women, Infants and Children clinic as well as staff from Central Health’s Medical Assistance Program.

The first phase of county’s plans would give visitors and workers much more space by replacing the cramped building with a 10,000-square-foot structure.

The second phase would add a new medical clinic run by Central Health and CommUnityCare, a private nonprofit health provider for low-income and uninsured county residents. Details on this part of the plan remain incomplete.

“We’re not as far along as developing that with [CommUnityCare],” project manager Gabrielle Stock told Commissioners. “We’re still in preliminary conversations with them.”

Despite that uncertainty, Commissioner Brigid Shea asked whether the future clinic could serve another significant population of area residents: inmates at the neighboring Travis County Correctional Complex.

Stock responded, “One of the things I’ve been trying to explore both in open session and in conversations with representatives from the Dell medical complex and Seton and Central Health is how can we be more efficient in providing health care to inmates at Del Valle that won’t tie up all of our officers in transport to the emergency room at Brackenridge, leave several staff people sitting in the emergency room for hours with inmates, and just be grossly inefficient in so many ways.”

Commissioner Margaret Gómez suggested that the court bring Sheriff Greg Hamilton into future discussions on that issue, and Judge Sarah Eckhardt agreed.

The six-figure sum Commissioners approved for the project Tuesday is money earmarked last year to adjust the property for the planned FM 973. That project will bring the right of way mere feet from the community center and bend the roadway just north of it in order to reconnect its dogleg intersection at SH 71.

Stock told Commissioners that the proposed new center would move farther back from the new road to allow a larger buffer zone and expanded parking. It would also include a new rear driveway for safer visitor drop-offs and pickups. The project also aims to be environmentally friendly by building around existing trees and aspiring for LEED-silver certification.

County staff’s current project schedule allows for construction on the first phase to begin next year with a move-in date set for January 2017. Before Tuesday’s vote, Eckhardt clarified that final approval of the $2.8 million budget will be left to the vicissitudes of future county budget talks.

“I just don’t want to put the cart before the horse here,” she declared. “This specific agenda item is to allocate $160,000 and change for planning, programming and preliminary design work for phase one. This is not an indication of a future vote, a future dollar figure or any of that.”


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