Fredericksburg: Leaders Discuss Potential for New City Facilities
Featured Photo (above): Fredericksburg city employees at the existing city hall/fire station complex at 126 W. Main St., near the Marktplatz, work in tight quarters and likely will need additional space in the near future, city officials have said. Image: Google Streets
By Edmond Ortiz
Fredericksburg (Gillespie County)–Local officials have restarted discussing future plans for a new city hall, and a new police and fire station.
City Council revisited the matter Feb. 4.
Sparked by mounting space problems in existing municipal facilities, a previous council formed a subcommittee about four years ago.
The main administrative offices and the fire department are housed in a building at 126 W. Main St. in downtown Fredericksburg, near the Marktplatz.
The city’s police department is housed in a law enforcement center that includes the Gillespie County Sheriff’s Office at 1601 E. Main St. It’s also where the council meets for regular business sessions.
The committee initially focused on building a municipal complex near Friendship Lane. Then the council indefinitely paused the effort, City Manager Kent Myers said.
“There were two reasons. The council thought a new sports park was of more importance at that point in time,” Myers said.
Fredericksburg police personnel currently are based out of a combination law enforcement center that includes the Gillespie County Sheriff’s Office at 1601 E. Main St. Image: Google Streets
A short-term fix followed when the city took ownership of the former Security State Bank building and converted it into extra space for city operations. The city has leased other space in the past, too.
While continuing efforts to shift employees and functions around in the short run, the city is working on some more viable, long-range options for its administrative and first responder departments.
“There are no easy solutions,” Myers said. “There are no inexpensive solutions. Building space is expensive.”
Myers presented some preliminary cost estimates, but he cautioned against relying on those prices because they were calculated four years ago.
A 24,000-square-foot city hall was anticipated to cost more than $9 million at the time. That figure included construction cost, fees and soft costs. A combination fire/police department was estimated to cost $8.42 million, total.
He suggested the city could lease more space as local government needs increase in response to a growing population.
The city does own two buildings where space is currently leased out to non-government tenants. In total, the city has purchased four properties, their aggregate area being 67 acres. Two of the tracts are located near the city’s existing consolidated services warehouse.
No official proposals have been developed, but Myers suggested that the council wait until later this year and perhaps form a new committee. Myers also said that with some road improvements coming up, the city’s focus should remain on those projects.
“I just think we need a (new) city hall,” Mayor Linda Langerhans said. “Most staffers feel tight in there and it’s hard finding places to put them.”
But Councilman Tom Musselman said a new city hall should not be considered in the near future, especially given its anticipated cost.
“I don’t feel comfortable moving forward on these projects and I feel the city has other citizen priorities such as local street extensions, which should be addressed instead,” he said.
“But I do support the city manager investigating leasing additional office space to address increasing city needs over the next several years,” he added.
Musselman also said he supports creating a new facilities committee toward the end of the year.
Councilman Charlie Kiehne said if the city waits to do any project, be it road improvements or new facilities, it risks higher costs. But, he added, the focus should stay on doing street upgrades first.
Councilman Bobby Watson agreed to forming a committee: “I do agree it’s something we need to look at. With everything on our plate, trying to tackle this right now would be not advisable.”
Edmond Ortiz is a lifelong San Antonian and a 20-plus-year veteran in local journalism, He previously worked full-time at the San Antonio Express-News, and has been freelancing for outlets such as the Rivard Report.