Aransas County commissioners, at their special meeting Monday, Nov. 15, received an update about Long Term Recovery projects from Long Term Recovery Team (LTRT) member Kim Foutz, County Project Manager John Strothman, and County Road and Bridge Engineer David Reid.

The most time was spent discussing the proposed medical facility, with services provided by Amistad Community Health Center, Inc., and Bay Area Healthcare Group Ltd, dba Corpus Christi Medical Center (CCMC).

(Note: The project budget is $8,636,548 for construction, and $1,205,195 for architectural/engineering.

The county partnered with the Aransas County Medical Services, Inc. – ACMSI - in the fall of 2020, and negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

At about the same time, a Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued, seeking proposals from those in the healthcare industry regarding what would best serve the needs of Aransas County residents.

The goal was to enhance and increase medical services for the community and surrounding area.

The County, through its agreement with the ACMSI, will provide the facilities, but the successful proposers will pay for anything above the limits of the grant.

The County may provide subsidy/reimbursement from its Health Care Sales Tax Fund, approved annually, if requested and negotiated.

Commissioners, at their Aug. 23 meeting, approved awarding the architect services contract to PhiloWilke, contingent upon successful negotiation of the medical facility improvements.

At that same meeting, Strothman said, “Once we determine what we’re building, and the exact services to be provided, then we have to go to the GLO with an amendment and get an extension.”)

At Monday’s meeting, Foutz opened her report saying, “We are at a critical juncture. We are looking for feedback so we can move forward with the extension.”

She noted updated information and developing facts had to be presented for feedback from commissioners.

The amendments, which need to be approved by the GLO, include changing the original contract from a micro-hospital to a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), plus adding six emergency rooms, a diagnostic/lab, and one procedure room, as well as extending the timeline 30 months for new construction, amending costs, and the original location (Little Bay Elementary).

Foutz outlined a number of other deliverables needed for amendments, including use, programming, budget, and site. She noted an architect had to be on board to deliver the information needed for the amendments.

Foutz then introduced topics needing feedback prior to moving forward, including the architect’s contract, consideration of using an existing building for Amistad’s FQHC, and providing a supplemental contribution to Amistad for operational deficits.

She said it’s hard to know how the GLO will react (to the amendments, and how long it will take for it to respond).

“If the answer takes six months … we are looking at up to $600,000 at risk with architectural contract (with all new facilities),” said Foutz.

(Note: Prior to Monday’s meeting, the medical facilities were to built new on ACMSI property at 400 Enterprise Blvd. utilizing funds from the Community Development Block Grant - Disaster Recovery.)

Foutz introduced another option – purchasing the former urgent care facility located immediately south of Ace Hardware. She said that option was brought to her attention about 1-1/2 weeks prior to Monday’s meeting.

“Amistad wants to get into the market sooner, than later,” said Foutz.

The asking price is $2.4 million for about 12,000 square feet of space ($200 per square foot).

Foutz said purchasing the former urgent care facility would keep CCMC at the ACMSI site, and put Amistad in the former urgent site.

Commissioner Wendy Laubach said the public suggested the old urgent care site in the past.

“Is there any reason why now it’s okay?” she asked, and questioned why reasons given to disqualify the site in the past, don’t matter anymore.

“All we’re doing is exploring (options),” said Foutz.

Commissioner Pat Rousseau said she is surprised with how much has changed in the proposal, noting she was one of the people who asked about utilizing the former urgent care facility.

“My concern is that suddenly it’s back and on the forefront,” said Rousseau. “That is a big concern for me.”

She noted the real estate representative (representing the seller of the former urgent are center) is the only one with a real estate deal with the County (Rockport Harvey Housing).

Rousseau also said previous discussions by the court centered on an annual allocation from the Indigent Health Care tax (the ½¢ sales tax approved by voters many years ago).

Foutz said many issues had been raised during the ACMSI’s weekly meetings, and Commissioner Bubba Casterline, as a result of discussions in those meetings, asked if the LTRT should go back and explore the possibility of utilizing the former urgent care center.

It was at this time ACMSI Executive Director Patricia Arnold came to the podium and said, “Some of this (new site) is new (information) to the ACMSI.”

She noted discussions have been held about building an L-shaped facility at the ACMSI site, which would work (for both operators) with a nurse’s station at the corner of the L.

Arnold added everyone should be excited about Amistad coming to Aransas County.

Aransas County Judge noted he wants to get Amistad operating as soon a possible, and added the county can’t build a new facility (for $200 per square foot, which is the cost for the former urgent care center).

“I’m concerned that the ACMSI is just learning about this today,” said Laubach.

Foutz responded, “The only thing different is we got asked to do due diligence 1-1/2 weeks ago.”

Laubach asked why Arnold didn’t know about this (after at least 10 days of preparation).

Foutz said, “We have talked, but understand we’re not on the same page.”

She noted the key thing right now is to make a decision regarding the architect.

Commissioner Jack Chaney said, “I don’t know how we can make any decision today. Y’all need to get your heads together … this is too important for the community … all parties need to be onboard.”

Rousseau said making a decision regarding the architect is hard to do at this time, not knowing if the county is talking about one building (Amistad and CCMC located at ACMSI site), or two (CCMC at ACMSI site, and Amistad in the former urgent care center).

Foutz said, “GrantWorks said the GLO wants to see something to know we’re going through with this.

“We (LTRT) just wanted some direction.”

Arnold said after meeting with Amistad officials in a special population meeting, and after learning from Foutz that it would be 2024 before a new building was constructed (opened), she told Amistad the ACMSI had some space they could use until the new building was done.

Mills noted the idea to bring this new option before the court was not Foutz’ idea, but rather his, after discussions with Casterline.

Casterline said having a new building, and using the former urgent care center, was a possibility, but the county wouldn’t know without exploring the idea.

“You don’t have the money to do both,” said Arnold.

Foutz said, “We won’t know if we can afford it until an architect is on board.”

Laubach said apparently only two commissioners knew about this new proposal.

“If the ACMSI (was included in the discussions) then (I wouldn’t have a problem with it),” she said. “This is just bad process. We don’t need more secrecy.”

Kristie Rutledge, speaking from the audience, said the committee process was developed because of secrecy, and she is glad Monday’s meeting was held.

She said it appears there are backroom deals with a realtor who is on the EDC.

Rutledge said the members of the selection committee (that recommended the two providers) are experts in this field.

“The LTRT and Commissioner Casterline are not qualified,” she said.

“Are we looking at a hospital taxing district?” she asked.

“Whatever proposals are put forward need to go back to the committee.”

She blamed the LTRT and EDC for the medical facility project running behind.

“Give it back to the committee (citizens). Let us know who is going to own the buildings,” said Rutledge.

Other projects

Foutz then addressed the Fiber Optic Project. She said many communities didn’t receive funding during the first round of CDBG-MIT grant funding, and then the GLO decided to cancel a proposed second round, choosing to instead provide Councils of Government (COG) with funds to divide in their respective regions.

She said the original second round of funding was to be $75 million for the region, but now, the second allocation, this time through the COGs, is $179 million.

Foutz said if the entire $88 million for the Fiber Optic Project is awarded (25 entities participating), there would still be more than the $75 million (projected for the second allocation as originally planned) remaining.

Rousseau asked, “We don’t have to (have any) match?”

Foutz answered affirmatively.

She also noted the COG hasn’t approved the project, but it looks good.

Foutz said all the CDBG-MIT projects on the original list have been funded, expect for the hurricane dome, and the Pete’s Bend and Club Lake drainage projects.

Reid then gave an update about CDBG-DR (disaster recovery) funded projects.

“We have eight road and drainage projects (at about the 60% design phase),” said Reid.

Those projects (100% grant), and corresponding costs, are:

• Linden Street ($2,605,778)

• SE Aransas County ($8,415,562)

• Ruby Allen/Traylor Streets ($3,394,852)

• Copano Heights ($1,642,986)

• Holiday Beach ($6,470,381)

• Loop 1781 ($3,335,396)

• Rattlesnake Point ($6,253,867)

• SW Aransas County ($5,631,172)

The eight projects total almost $38 million, with no match required.

“We’ll start getting 100% plans in January,” said Reid. “All the projects are running concurrently, with some a little more ahead of others.”

Strothman then gave an update about CDBG-DR funded projects, that don’t have to meet LMI (low moderate income) requirements for funding.

He said construction on the Downtown Anchor Project Community Building and Plaza ($3,599,167) will start in March 2022, and be completed about a year later.

He said the Rockport Center for the Arts parking lot ($1,411,875) bids have come in under budget. Construction could begin in February 2022. The parking lot is located on the railroad depot property on Magnolia Street.

Other projects he outlined included the Aransas County emergency service radio tower ($230,667), and the Fiber Optic Loop Feasibility Study ($398,925). That study has been completed.

New courthouse

Strothman said the bid opening is scheduled for Dec. 9 for the 45,912-square-foot courthouse. The old courthouse was 27,085 square feet.

The projected cost is $22,702,912, including construction ($19,324,681), architectural and engineering ($1,371,122), construction manager ($704,000), and testing and other miscellaneous expenses ($2,085,122).

Funding sources include Insurance related ($9,933,534), all FEMA ($1,652,768), Rebuild Texas ($80,766), CDBG-DR ($3,809,378), State ($253,708), and bond ($13,200,000).

Strothman said the estimated cost has been through three different budgets and has held up pretty well.

Additional projects

He then visited FEMA 404, TDEM, and FEMA 428 funded projects.

Those include the Little Bay Resiliency Project ($3.8 million), and the Lamar Beach Road ($7,091,505) and Shell Ridge Road ($3,740,186) Shoreline Resiliency Projects.

(Note: Opposition by Fulton Beach Road property owners killed the shoreline resiliency project along that scenic roadway.)

Strothman said the Little Bay Resiliency Project was originally a $13 million project, and the money saved on that project can be used on other projects if needed.

He then talked about county public assistance funded projects, including Cedar Bayou ($7,141,749), St. Charles Bay breakwater ($240,874), radio antenna for dispatch ($1,102,629), vehicle replacement ($540,464), road and bridge ($510,321), and debris removal ($43,292,776).

All of those projects are completed, except for the dredging of Cedar Bayou.

Strothman said the Cedar Bayou project is about 80% complete. That project has now been delayed until spring, after the whooping cranes migrate north.

Strothman ended his presentation noting TDEM called and said they had extra money, so the county went back and pulled up projects that weren’t picked for funding.

The two projects resubmitted are generators for seven county facilities ($409,571) and South Center Lamar Section 7 Drainage ($109,916).

“I don’t know if we’ll get this,” he said.

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