County board to hear options on future home of HHS
With their new justice center nearing completion, Mower County leaders are starting to focus on what should be done with courthouse space that will be vacated upon the new facility's opening.
Tonight, the Mower County Board is hosting an information-only meeting on its facility options for the county's Health and Human Services employees as well as the planned Law Enforcement Center renovations.
Board members are not expected to take any official action during the meeting that's slated to start at 6:30 p.m. in their meeting room. Officials will go through a consultant's report related to moving HHS downtown, listing the positives and negatives with each option.
HHS workers are using leased space at Oak Park Mall in northwest Austin.
County officials have been studying three main options for Health and Human Services — remodel vacated courthouse space; construct an energy-efficient building across from the courthouse in the cleared-out Robbins block; or remain in leased space at Oak Park Mall and renegotiate the contract.
A month ago, County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said it's a great time to borrow money and get low construction prices, but the nation's tough economy is making it a difficult time for taxpayers.
County board members, when approving the justice center's construction, had said they intended to move the HHS offices back to downtown Austin, either into remodeled space or a new building.
Officials, however, have said that's a county board goal, not a promise.
More than 20,000 square feet will be vacated in the courthouse once the justice center opens in fall. HHS needs about 20,000 square feet.
Oscarson has said constructing that same square footage in the Robbins block likely would cost about $1.5 million more than remodeling courthouse space.
City of Austin and county officials already have budgeted $1.6 million — each paying half — for remodeling the Law Enforcement Center.