County eyes new AgriLife building
Gillespie County will break ground on a new Gillespie County AgriLife facility this week. A ceremony will be held at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14 at property located at Gillespie County Airport Business Park.
The new facility will be 13,900 square feet compared to the current facility that is only 4,000 square feet.
The facility will be divided into two sections.
The first half will be a multi-purpose room that can be divided into thirds.
One third will include a demo kitchen to be used for cooking demonstrations for 4-H and other community groups.
The space can also be divided into smaller spaces for classrooms.
The entire multi-purpose room will be able to host BB gun practices and robotics programming and competitions.
The other half will be office space for the AgriLife department. Each staff member will have their own office space as well as an additional conference room.
It will also include four flex spaces with a separate entrance to be used by the department or the public.
The land where the new AgriLife facility will be located is already owned by the county, making the decision for a new facility much easier, Pct. 4 Commissioner Donnie Schuch said. Also, because of the work the ag offices do with the Gillespie County Fair Grounds, proximity was important.
The county and staff of the AgriLife department worked together with Vanir Construction Management, Inc. to come up with features that addressed their needs for a 10- to 20-year window.
Space was one of the first priorities that needed to be addressed.
Outside the new building will be gardening space as well as an area to weigh livestock.
“This was an area where we asked them what they were doing currently and where they wanted to see themselves 10 or 20 years down the road,” Rufo Reyes, project manager of Vanir Construction Management, Inc. said.
The project, which breaks ground Friday, will likely be completed in nine months, with offices transitioning in September or October 2020.
Frederick Road property
The current home of the AgriLife building will be re-purposed.
The goal of the commissioners is to move the Gillespie County Elections Office and the Veterans Service Office to the property on Frederick Road.
“We felt like we could move these two departments out of Annex 2 and retrofit the property on Frederick Road to meet their department needs,” Schuch said.
Next to the Frederick Road building, Gillespie County will build another 8,500-square-foot property expected to house the facilities maintenance building, the Information Technology department and the constables’ offices. The building will also include flex office space for any future needs or departments.
“By moving these departments around, we also hope to expand them, which will help us do our own work rather than using contractors,” Schuch said.
With the plan to help the county grow, commissioners have been proactive in coming up with a common sense, conservative plan, Schuch said.
All project funds come from the Capital Improvement Program and have been approved by the commissioners’ court during the annual budget process.
According Reyes, the cost estimate for both facilities (AgriLife and facilities maintenance) is just under $5 million.
“We have been frugal and we think this is the best route for our taxpayers,” Schuch said. “Leftover funding has been put into a ‘rainy day fund,’ so to speak, saving money to fund any upcoming projects and I think we have come up with some very good, conservative options.”
Schuch said that the strategic plan will help provide big relief in the county while also looking at the potential of growth.
“We wanted to look at all our options, whether that meant expanding current facilities or developing new spaces to meet the needs of the county,” Schuch said.
“We sat down with them and really helped them evaluate their long-term needs,” Reyes said. “And this will continue to be something we do down the road.”
According to research found in the long-range plan, the average county employee rate per 1,000 residents is 7.56 for Burnet, Kendall, Bandera and Llano counties, where Gillespie County is at 6.75. The county would have to add 22 employees to the current 178, a 12% increase, to meet the regional average.
“We simply can’t work efficiently with less people, so over time, we will begin hiring employees to help solve this issue,” Schuch said.
The plan for the new building was developed by county commissioners with the help of Vanir, the same company that helped construct the jail in 2015. The two entities began by creating a strategic plan for the entire county that will be updated on a yearly basis.
“We have been working in Gillespie County for about eight years now and we wanted to continue to work with the county to address its growth, since we already had good relationships,” Reyes said.
“They know Gillespie County very intimately now because of the work they did with the jail,” Schuch said. “It was a matter of who was in our comfort zone, and we felt like they knew our focus and we could trust them.”
Areas of immediate need were identified as were concerns for the future.
Commissioners and the Vanir staff wanted to look at all options, from creating more jobs, more office space and evaluating current facilities. This included the creation of a human resources department, offices for the justice of the peace officers and other flex office space.
All major county equipment is also now on a replacement plan.
“We sat down and looked at our needs, what space was available, what was working, what wasn’t and what needed to be updated yearly, and what could wait,” Schuch said.
Schuch said the idea of building an entirely new courthouse was discussed but the idea was quickly shelved as the projected cost was too high.
With offices moved out of Annex 2, commissioners are looking into options of what to do with the space.
“We need to get everything out of Annex 2 and pretty much decommission it,” Schuch said. “It is a high-priced real estate property or we will look into ways to retrofit it without spending large amounts of money.”
Schuch said that he and the rest of the commissioners’ court hope that this shows the public that they are trying to manage the county government through a business plan model.
“We are looking at demographics, looking at expected growth, adding services, all while doing it in the most economical way,” he said.
Gillespie County’s strategic plan can be found online at gillespiecounty.org, under Gillespie County Long Range Facilities Master Plan.
Changes will be made on a yearly basis.