Comal County operations will soon be returning under the same downtown umbrella.
Judge Sherman Krause said renovations of the Courthouse Annex are scheduled to wrap up later this month, and with that comes the return of several county departments that were shuffled into temporary digs the past two years.
“The date for substantial completion of the Annex is July 22 and we will have furniture delivered between Aug. 2 and Aug. 6,” Krause said. “It will take four weeks to install the furniture, and as soon as it is installed we will start the moves.”
SpawGlass Contractors is managing construction of three project phases totaling $32.5 million. The Landa Building, the former First Federal Savings and Loan at the site of the former Landa family residence next to the county courthouse, completed a $14.7 million renovation last spring.
At the same time in May 2020, a $2.4 million inmate holding facility for defendants attending daytime court proceedings was finished on what used to be the third floor of the parking garage next to the Annex.
When complete, the Annex will house county clerk offices and records on the first floor; the auditor, treasurer and information technology offices on the second floor; and the four district courts and district clerk’s offices on the third floor.
Krause’s explanation of the moves likened them to musical chairs. He credited the city of New Braunfels — which lent its former city hall space to temporarily house county operations – enabling the project to be completed in phases.
“As we wrap these projects up I think it’s important to reiterate that for this project to work, all the pieces had to fit together – and we could not have done this without City Hall,” he said.
The county treasurer, auditor and information technology departments are at the old municipal offices on Castell Avenue, along with County Court at-Law No. 1, district clerk, law library and district attorney’s civil staff offices.
Krause said the timeline calls for the county clerk to move into the Annex on Aug. 13, with the rest moving in stages as furniture installations are completed. When the district courts return from the Landa Building to the Annex, County Court at-Law No. 3 will move from the third floor of the Historic Courthouse to join the two other courts at-law in the Landa Building.
The auditor, IT and treasurer will be moving into the second floor of the Annex starting on Aug. 30, Krause said.
“We have people all over the place,” he said, adding the main county clerk’s offices and courts-at-law clerks will move from the Landa Building to the Annex, but the clerks will return to the Landa Building after new furniture is finally installed for its offices.
“The biggest thing is the district clerk’s offices, now housed with the DA’s offices in the second floor of the Landa Building,” Krause said. “They will move back into the Annex along with the grand jury, which has been quartered on the third floor of the Historic Courthouse.
“There’s a lot of moving parts,” Krause said.
Grady Frank, SpawGlass project superintendent, said construction is about “85% complete.”
“We’re working really hard to get to the end of substantial completion by the end of July,” he said. “We’re down to the finishing touches — the flooring, ceiling tiles, countertops and putting on final coats of paint — all the detail and pretty work that’s at the end.”
The county is also dependent on the city to issue certificates of occupancy and keep the move-in timeline on schedule. Frank said he’s hoping they will come during the week of July 18-24.
“The city has actually worked very well with us — we have given them advance notice,” Krause said. “We are trying not to have any surprises for them by letting them know what’s going on weeks in advance.
“The whole idea is to get the building complete, get our certificate of occupancy, and move people into it so we can start to use the building again.”
Through June, construction change orders have increased costs of Annex renovations by $1.131 million, to $12.016 million, and delayed substantial completion from July 12 to July 22. Commissioners recently transferred $600,000 in budgeted funds to cover increased spending in all county construction projects.
“When you have a renovation like this you’re going to find some things that you didn’t expect,” Krause said. “There are a few other things we haven’t talked about that have come up and we had to think about doing something about them now. But we don’t want to do anything that will interrupt the schedule.”
Frank said the certificate of occupancy has to come before final inspection by the architect, who then certifies substantial completion.
“Essentially it means we’re far enough along as to where the owners can move in there,” he said, adding some items on the punch list for finishing items will continue even after substantial completion.
Frank said at this point, only about 50 workers are on the site at any given time.
“The way the times are right now, we’ve been struggling with a lot of manpower issues — it’s hard to get people out here to finish up. We’re trying to finish the building with essentially fewer people than we typically would have on-site.”
SpawGlass is also managing the Comal County Sheriff’s Office renovations. Frank said a different crew just completed demolition ahead of merging the former 337-bed county jail with the Fellers Law Enforcement Center on San Antonio Street. The $12.434 million project has a projected completion date of April 14, 2022.