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County’s Judicial Center project moves forward

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

You have to spend money to save money – even when it is a matter of taxpayer money.

That was the prevailing thought that dictated the action of the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court on Monday morning when they approved a three-part contract with Broaddus & Associates, an Austin-based planning firm who will soon begin the process o

f creating a scope of work, and later possibly managing a construction project to mitigate site damage at the Caldwell County Judicial Center.

The project, which is slated to begin after Thanksgiving, first involves determining the scope of work required in the project. Afterward, the Commissioners will have to decide whether to move forward with repairs to the building or take a new direction.

Long since a thorn in the Court’s side, the Caldwell County Judicial Center on the corner of Commerce and San Antonio Streets, remains in need of repairs, this time due to a leaking roof and moisture seepage in the exterior walls.

The amount of work required, however, is the unknown factor, and the reason why Broaddus & Associates has been called in to examine the project.

“This contract only addresses the critical needs at the Judicial Center,” said Brenda Jenkins, vice-president of Broaddus & Associates, who visited with the Commissioners on Monday. “These are only the repairs needed to stabilize the building, not to reconstruct it.”

By “stabilizing,” Jenkins means stop the seepage of moisture into the building, so the County can move forward with mitigating the damage, if it is cost-effective to do so.

In the first phase of the project, Broaddus employees will perform an assessment of the building, including testing the air quality and equipment in the building, determining the extent of the damage done, and establishing the structural integrity of the facility.

Depending upon those results, the Court will then have to decide whether to move forward with repairs, or to take a new direction with the Judicial Center.

“At the beginning, I was dead-set against this thing,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Roland said. “But now, the deeper we get into it, the more sense I think it makes. I think if we’re going to continue to put money into this building, we need to know exactly what we’re looking at. We don’t want to get into a project where we start fixing the roof, and then realize halfway through the project that there’s some other problem that we didn’t know about or didn’t expect.”

Precinct 1 Commissioner John Cyrier, who has been working on the Judicial Center project since he was appointed to the Court by late Judge H.T. Wright in January, expressed the same sentiments.

“I’m afraid to go in and start patching until we really know what’s wrong,” Cyrier said.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Charles Bullock, who will be retiring at the end of this calendar year, took a different tack on the project.

“I think that we need to do something, but I think there should be a less expensive way to go about it,” he said. “We started this over a year ago, and I think that if we hire people to go in and, say, fix the roof, that they should report it to us if they find other problems.”

Newly-elected Commissioner Fred Buchholtz, who will replace Bullock in January, gave a similar statement, saying that he knows the County is responsible for getting the moisture out of the building, but suggesting “we don’t need to spend a lot of money to do it.”

All told, the three phases of the contract, in terms only of scope development and construction management, will cost $59,595 under the contract with Broaddus & Associates that was approved on 4-1 vote. However, the Court reserved the right to terminate the contract at the end of any phase of the project, depending upon the County’s needs based on the completion of each phase.

“We want to make sure we’re making the best decisions we can with the money we have available,” said Precinct 3 Commissioner Neto Madrigal. “That’s why I think moving forward and having the scope development done now is our best interest.”

Scope development, the first phase of the project, is expected to cost Caldwell County taxpayers $15,623.

In other business:
Several grass fires have erupted throughout Caldwell County, prompting discussion among the Commissioners about the inherent dangers of outdoor burning.

According to Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Parker, the county remains in a position of relatively low danger on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index. However, current weather conditions, including dry, windy days, have called for the need for increased attention to safety when county residents burn outdoors.

While the Court decided not to instate an outdoor burning ban, they did, at Parker’s request, remind county residents that certain liabilities exist when “controlled burns” become grass fires.

“If that fire gets out of control and goes to your neighbor’s property, you might not only be responsible for paying for whatever it destroys, but you might also be cited and pay a fine,” Parker said. He, and the Commissioners, urged caution when burning outdoors.

Additionally, Duesterheft said he was going to keep an eye on the “KBDI-situation,” and may instate an outdoor burning ban prior to the next regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 13, if the situation warrants an executive order.

Also, the Commissioners agreed to work with the Mineral Springs Baptist Church to abandon and move a portion of Mineral Springs Road (CR 114), in order to increase safety and space for the members of the church.

In brief news:
The Court approved a property owner’s request for a variance to sell 13.6 acres of property in the McMahan area, while retaining just over one acre of land. Both tracts have ample roadway frontage and septic systems attached to the residential property in line with county standards.

They heard reports from the9-1-1 coordinator and the Veterans’ Service Officer.

The County paid bills in the amount of $143,504.89, which included $9,370.86 in indigent legal defense fees and $3,430.17 in indigent health care expenses.

The Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court routinely meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse. The meetings are open to the public and interested individuals are encouraged to attend and participate.

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