(Seguin) – Planning is now officially down to color schemes and landscaping for what will soon be Guadalupe County’s new Veterans Outreach Center. A project overview was shared Tuesday with members of the Guadalupe County Commissioners Court. Bringing forth the latest in the much talked about renovation project were team members with architect, The Thorn Group.
The group shared renderings on the future look of the new Veterans Outreach Center. The county is looking to transform the old Reitman hospital and former Head Start building on Weinert Street into the new healing and service space for area veterans.
Among those impressed with the potential designs for the renovated building was Guadalupe County Judge Kyle Kutscher.
“The building really has turned out just really lovely. It’s not very pretty right now – you know, an old county hospital that’s been used for different purposes over the years, needs a lot of attention but at the same time, as we talked about for a number of years now – I think this is the perfect use for it and I have to thank the entire court here for their continued support in pushing forward with this. You know this building with this type of use being a real benefit to veterans not just in Guadalupe County but in the region, coupled with expanded veteran service office resources at the Riedel building which is the service center in Schertz where we have a very dense population of veterans but also have closer proximity to resources in San Antonio — I think what we are doing here is going to set the stage for other places around the state to say ‘this is the right way to do it. This is the way to provide a better more efficient service to the people who need access to different kinds of help at different times.’ I think it’s going to be a very welcoming place where even if somebody doesn’t necessarily need something, they will still feel welcome to go spend time and visit here and that’s the whole point. So, I think it’s shaping up great,” said Kutscher.
The inside of the building will allow for designated services plus a flex space area where the skies are the limit in attracting perhaps other outside partners who could also be of service to area veterans such as serving as a potential coffee or snack bar operator.
Chiming in on the outside of the building and the architect’s attempt to preserve its historical integrity is County Commissioner Pct, 3 Michael Carpenter.
“I’m very appreciative of the fact that you took into account the neighborhood that this sits in and so the architecture that is around the building as well as noting that it’s art deco period and trying to maintain that there is no law that says that when we build a building for public use paid for by public tax money that it has to be ugly. In fact, the public is going to spend a lot of time here and so making it not only historically correct on the façade and on the front but where it’s nice to be inside the building is taxpayer money well spent. So, I appreciate the design very much,” said Carpenter.
County Commissioner Pct. 4 Judy Cope also applauded the architect for ensuring that every inch of the property even those on the outside were designed with the veteran in mind.
“I think you did a very good job especially in those outside areas there where a lot of times our veterans just need a little solitude to themselves and they can go out and sit down and reflect and just kind of feel good, so I appreciate that,” said Cope.
It was this past July, when the county decided to dive deeper into the project – a project that was talked about but left off the table for at least three years. Kutscher says it continues to be the county’s will to operate this “rural veterans service center that will be housed in a county owned facility on a county owned property (and) that basically serves as a one stop shop for veterans.”
At the time, Kutscher stated that veterans travel anywhere from 30 upwards to 50, 60 or even 70 miles from rural locations to go into Audie Murphy, the VA or other places. However, with this county owned facility, he envisioned a partnership with other agencies – all working together as a united group to provide multiple services to veterans.
Kutscher says although plans for the physical building are already underway, there is still time to take suggestions from those community groups and potential donors who also want to invest in our veterans.
“I went to Veterans Day ceremonies. I did have a couple of organizations reach out in which we are going to give you (the architect) contact information on. They just wanted to give some feedback on some of the flex space and maybe some of the services that they’d like to see in the building. I know I met and talked with Nancy Russell, our veterans service office officer and you are going to do the same thing – having her kind of facilitate some of those conversations and just say ‘hey, what do you want to see in the building? What will be a benefit to the other veteran organizations in Guadalupe County and in the region already? I think if we can get some of those things sured up just a little bit more, I think it seems like we are really really close,” said Kutscher.
It has been recommended that once the design is final, that the county move forward with a competitive sealed proposal for the renovation. This particular procurement method is designed to request proposals, allow the county to rank the offers, negotiate as prescribed in the deal and then contract with a general contractor to get the job done.
Although the county has allocated funds for the project, Kutscher says he does expect the architect to propose a potential price tag that could come in those bids at the next meeting.
The county is hoping to have the newly renovated building open by Veterans Day 2022.