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County eyes building upgrades

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

Less than a year after the completion of an expansion of the Caldwell County Judicial Center annex, the Commissioners’ Court is being asked to ponder whether the building has outlived its usefulness.

The expansion project, designed to expand the useable space in the building and add soundproofing for the courtrooms,

failed to address issues of drainage and mold infestation which still need to be remedied, according to a report delivered to the Commissioners on Monday morning. Although the additional work on the building is not critical at this stage, it is necessary, and has called into question whether it is more appropriate to continue renovating the building, or to examine other options.

The Judicial Center is one of five buildings that will be the subject of a study to be completed in the coming months by Austin-based Broaddus Planning, a firm which specializes in helping government entities maximize the use of their facilities.

“[There isn’t really] a ‘band-aid’ for the problems [at the Judicial Center], because we can’t really identify and grasp all the issues,” Precinct One Commissioner John Cyrier said during his report to the other Commissioners. “[After researching options], I came up with Broaddus to help with the long-term planning and assessment of the current conditions.”

Cyrier went on to remind the Court of the limitations on the County’s budget, and the necessity for being as prepared and accurate as possible moving forward.

To that end, Cyrier asked Broaddus representatives to prepare an initial “hot list” of buildings within the County’s inventory which are in need of upgrade or repair, and to prioritize those needs.

The Judicial Center topped the list, along with the Scott Annex Building, the Caldwell County Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office, the Caldwell County Courthouse and the Juvenile Justice Center.

Moving forward, Broaddus will help the Court work with the departments located in those buildings to determine both the immediate needs, and the possible pitfalls a growing population with mounting need for services might create.

Cyrier suggested an initial report would be available to the Commissioners prior to the beginning of budget talks next month.

The assessment, what Cyrier called the “first phase” of a much larger project, is expected to cost around $16,000.

In other business, the Commissioners approved participation in an application for a Rural Housing Preservation Grant Program.

When the County participated in the grant program several years ago, they were able to help low-income families replace septic systems at little cost to the homeowner, and with no county matching funds required.

Throughout the state, a total of $698,000 in grant funds are expected, and Caldwell County hopes to be among the seven or eight communities given a share of that money.

The grant application is due on June 28.

The Commissioners also approved the purchase of 100 signs that will be affixed to highway signs throughout Caldwell County notifying residents whether a burn ban is in effect.

A request was made last month by the Caldwell County Fire Chief’s Association for the purchase of the signs and help with the installation on approved signs throughout the county. Working with the approval of the court, the association made contact with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to determine the proper verbiage, locations and stipulations for the installation of the signs, which they hope will help to keep Caldwell County residents both informed and safe during the summer months, when burn bans are common and wildfire dangers are high.

The purchase of the signs is a portion of a multi-pronged approach aimed at education, safety and prevention, and is expected to cost less than $4,500.

In a related item, the Court voted unanimously not to enact an outdoor burn ban, but noted that residents hoping to burn brush should contact the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office to notify dispatch they intended to burn, in an effort to save unnecessary calls to the volunteer fire departments.

In brief news:
The Commissioners gave a warm welcome to County Judge Ronnie Duesterheft, who previously served as a County Commissioner from 1985 – 2004. Duesterheft was appointed last week to fill the unexpired term of the late County Judge H.T. Wright.

Duesterheft was appointed to serve on the board of directors for Combined Community Action of Hays, Caldwell and Blanco Counties.

The County paid bills in the amount of $133,764.96, which includes $11,241.70 in indigent legal defense and $33,242.88 for indigent health care.

The Caldwell County Commissioners Court 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 citizens are encouraged to attend and participate.

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