Commissioners OK courthouse update work
After half a century, Gillespie County’s courthouse is ready for new piping and insulation. Commissioners approved the items at their regular Monday meeting.
John Sandstedt, Gillespie County Facility, Grounds and Janitorial Department supervisor, said the pipes were put in 50 years ago.
“We haven’t had a blowout in four years, but this is something we have to get started on now,” Sandstedt said.
Sandstedt said they want to begin work soon since the Gillespie Central Appraisal District recently moved out of the courthouse.
The 13 fan and coil units will cost the county $46,900 which will be included in next year’s budget and should take three to four years to finish the project, Sandstedt said.
Commissioners agreed on the project’s urgency.
“We should do it now since that space is vacant,” County Commissioner Pct. 4 Donnie Schuch said.
Commissioners also approved $40,069 for Texas Chiller Systems to replace piping and insulation, and to add a chemical filter feeder in the courthouse.
The project will be done in three phases over the next few years.
“The main chiller needs to be replaced. It’s 26 years old and very inefficient,” Sandstedt said. “The total cost of the project is $500,000 over three or four years. But I’m aiming high on my prediction.”
Commissioners also approved the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB) budget during their meeting. The CVB budget for the upcoming year is $2,802,694, of which $378,571 is the county’s portion.
Ernie Loeffler, CVB president and CEO, said the county started collecting hotel occupancy tax (HOT) funds in 2007.
“In calendar year 2016, total revenue generated for all businesses in the city and county by direct visitor expenditures stood at about $96.8 million, according to the Office of the Governor of Economy Development and Tourism,” Loeffler said. “That’s up from $94.6 million the previous year.”
The return on investment (ROI) for the city and county was about $39 for every dollar spent by the CVB in 2016, Loeffler said.
“The important thing is that is money being spent that has been left behind by the visitors paying occupancy tax, so there’s no local tax revenue being expended to promote the tourism industry,” Loeffler said.
Loeffler said this year has been different, and a weak peach season and devastating Hurricane Harvey will have an effect on the tourism industry.
“It’s early to know what the end effect will be, but in this quarter, we will be affected,” Loeffler said. “There are places like Port Aransas and Rockport where we won’t be seeing any visitors in the foreseeable future, but again, there will be people who are looking for places to go.”
Schuch said tourism helps offset some of the costs the locals have to pay.
“The thing about having visitors to the county is it not only helps the HOT money, but it also helps the sales tax in this county,” Schuch said. “It’s not a bonus for sales tax, it’s in lieu of property tax, so all of our citizens benefit from the tourism industry. I think it’s a win-win deal.”
No parking here
A public hearing was set by commissioners for 9 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 2 at the county courthouse regarding the restriction of parking at the intersection of Morris Ranch Road and Coonrod-Grona Road, just off State Highway 16 South.
“I received a petition signed by 27 homeowners located in that area,” County Commissioner Pct. 3 Dennis Neffendorf said. “They are requesting we set up no parking at that intersection for about half a mile. We need to establish a public hearing to get clarity on safety versus inconvenience at that location.”
No restrictions on county right-of-way currently exists in Gillespie County. The issue stems from people parking on the road and causing congestion while they use a public portion of the Pedernales River, and locals think the parked cars are a hazard for emergency vehicles.