Comal County Courthouse

Comal County Courthouse

MIKALA COMPTON | Herald-Zeitung

Last week, Comal County commissioners approved asking firms for design plans that would expand emergency operations and public health offices and create a mental health facility. On Tuesday, they will vote to create an agency that will have future roles in all three.

The Comal County Healthcare Coalition Charter will bring together several entities and individuals under the same umbrella to “promote, consolidate and collaborate in a unified response to emergencies affecting the county,” the county said. 

“The CCHCC will enhance the county’s ability to achieve emergency preparedness capabilities, and provide Public Health “with the opportunity to continue developing and implementing a countywide strategic vision for health sector preparedness.”

The county said the coalition will become official after charter ratification by all county hospitals, and at least one of the following: a long-term health care facility, emergency medical services agency, a community or health center, and one representative each from the local public health, emergency management and mental health communities. 

Public Health Director Cheryl Fraser will chair the group, with Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Jeff Kelley as vice chair. It will also hire a coordinator to provide general oversight, technical assistance, extend meeting invitations to community partners, and other administrative duties.

Last week commissioners authorized Purchasing Director Ramona Womack to issue requests for qualifications from firms that will design the Goodwin Annex as a central location for public health and emergency response, and a mental health treatment facility near the new jail and sheriff’s office on Loop 337 between Interstate 35 and San Antonio Street. 

Womack said the designs for the mental health facility would feature rooms for observation and crisis management within a 15,000-square foot facility. It features 16 beds, six for extended observation for involuntary commitments and 10 for voluntary crisis residential treatments. It will include examination and interview rooms, group treatment room, administrative offices, food/catering kitchen, dining room, dayroom, laundry facility, nurse’s station, and a courtyard area.

The current Goodwin Annex would be razed in phases for a new 60,000 square-foot public health/emergency operations center, with additional offices for both departments. It will feature a public health clinic, dispensing area with drive-through capabilities and a new emergency operations command post. It also will include a loading dock, warehouse/storage for equipment, records and supplies.

The mental health RFQ is due by 2 p.m. Dec. 16; the annex RFQ is requested by 2 p.m. Jan. 18, 2022. Both construction documents are asked to include timetables for subcontractor bidding, construction, and project closeout.

Both projects will be funded by the county’s $30.8 million share available through the American Rescue Plan Act for agencies impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the county’s $15 million received, commissioners on Oct. 28 approved $1.7 million for new law enforcement vehicles.

County Judge Sherman Krause has said the vehicles and development of the RFQ’s were the county’s “three highest priorities.”  

Commissioners last Thursday approved several routine items, including authorizing Krause to send a letter to the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) declining the county’s first right of refusal to lease on Canyon Lake. Commissioners have tabled a supplemental agreement updating the county’s 1964 lease of nine boat ramps from the Corps, last publically addressing controversial language in the updated agreement in late August.

Commissioners approved the sheriff’s office receiving more than $13,000 in donations benefiting its general fund and K-9 program, acknowledged a lease renewal option with Pay and Save, Inc. (Lowe’s Market), which will lease county-owned property destined to house future Precinct 4 offices in Sattler. They also approved 2022 county holidays and commissioner’s court meeting schedules, and several line-item budget transfers from various departments, most seeking additional funding through the rest of the calendar year.

This week, commissioners will approve change orders totaling $85,345 more for Courthouse Annex renovations, upping the total cost to the county and contractor SpawGlass to $12.4 million (original budget: $10.884 million). About $28,000 was for revamped court reporting stations in two of the four courtrooms of the facility, which opened on July 30. 

Commissioners will also consider approving the 2021 tax levy for the county and road and flood funds as provided by the tax assessor-collector; cast 958 votes for candidates on the Comal Appraisal District board for 2022-23; and furniture purchases associated with ongoing CCSO renovations.

Commissioners will meet at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in Commissioners Courtroom, 100 Main Plaza in New Braunfels.

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