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Monday, January 29, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns
Nash Hernandez joint-use facility will remain indefinitely unopened
For seven years, East Austin’s Nash Hernandez Building has remained empty as the Austin Parks and Recreation Department and the Austin Police Department have worked to create a 9,600-square-foot joint-use facility for Austin’s park rangers and park patrol units. As of last week, it looks like the project is still years away from completion.
Board Member Randy Mann was skeptical that it ever would be completed. “I’m wondering if any of us will be alive when this thing is finished,” he said.
The building, which is located across from Martin Middle School at 1621 Nash Hernandez Sr. Road, was again the topic of discussion at the Jan. 23 Parks and Recreation Board meeting.
Since 2013, when City Council recommended that the project appropriate $2 million from an APD bond funding the park patrol facility, the joint-use facility project has been in the design phase. At that time, the project had asked for the total funding of $4.7 million, but it was not granted.
“I wish the Council would have just given us the $4.7 million that we were asking for back in the day,” Project Manager Paul Mendoza told the Austin Monitor. According to him, that would have made the transition from design to construction easier and they wouldn’t have to continue to “fight for the money.”
“Where we’re at today,” Mendoza explained, “we’re still working on the construction drawings.” However, according to him, the design phase is 90 percent complete.
He noted that when the project is ready to move to the construction phase, “We’re looking at requesting $4.7 million to complete the project.” That would make the total project budget $6.7 million, $2 million more than was asked for in 2013.
He hopes to bring a request to receive funding through Austin’s 2018 bond package to City Council on March 22.
Mendoza defended the length of time it has taken for this project to get underway saying, “It’s only really going on the fourth year since we’ve signed the charter.” During this time, the project has been stalled twice: once to discuss funding and a second time for redesigns associated with the Holly Shores/Edward Rendon Sr. Park at Festival Beach Master Plan. He warned that the timeline could be stalled yet again as they wait for the bond to be approved. “Once that does get approved by the voters in November it still takes a long time for the funds to be available.”
Board Member Richard DePalma noted that there are no guarantees that the bond will be approved. He suggested that even if it did, perhaps the Nash Hernandez Building was not the ideal location to maximize efficiency for the joint-use facility.
“Getting from there to Zilker Park would not be something I would want to do during rush hour,” agreed Mann. “I understand that your officers have expertise, but can your officers fly?”
APD Lt. Andy Westbrook explained that in comparison to the three locations that his staff is currently spread out across, the Nash Hernandez Building “provides a great jump-off point to respond citywide.” The park patrol responds to 230 parks in Austin. For bicycle officers, the Nash Hernandez Building is particularly efficient.
Many of the search and rescue calls come from centrally located greenbelts especially in and around Zilker Park and the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail. “It’s just as important that we have a centralized location for our bicycle officers to deploy immediately,” he said.
However, he noted, “We’re going to continue to provide that no matter where we are.”
Rendering courtesy of the city of Austin.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin Police Department: the law enforcement entity for the City of Austin.
City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department: The city department responsible for the city's park system, rec centers, and associated infrastructure.
Parks and Recreation Board: The city’s Parks and Recreation Board members deal with the acquisition, development, improvement, and maintenance of Austin’s parks and playgrounds.