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Court annex remodel remains on hold

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

After more lengthy discussion about a proposed remodeling project at the Caldwell County Court Annex, the Caldwell County Commissioners are no closer to finding a solution to the soundproofing issue raised by District

Judge Todd Blomerth earlier this year.
Blomerth approached the Commissioners several months ago

asking updates to be made to the building to help with noise issues generated by traffic on San Antonio Street. The original request was to install a soundproof door, but the project took a life of its own, growing to include a large-scale remodel of the building allowing for additional office space.

When sealed bids were received last week, the price for the project had grown substantially, due in large part to an inability to schedule constant construction on the project according to architect Thom Earnest.

The low bidder, Free Bird Construction, re-evaluated the project last week in an effort to cut costs, and returned to the Court on Monday with several potential modifications.

“We have reviewed it and there are several things we can cut or change without changing the actual scope of the project,” Mike Voetee of Free Bird Construction said. “And the things that we listed here, those will change the price by several thousand dollars.”

Some of the suggestions included eliminating wainscoting and not including a second layer of sheetrock in the courtroom.

The Commissioners, however, were not prepared to go forward with the project until they had the chance to review the suggestions.

“We were told last week that the price had escalated because of the scheduling problems,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Neto Madrigal said. “Now you’re coming back to us and cutting the amenities on the building to reduce the price after they took steps to be able to make the schedule more consistent.”

Voetee said when the original estimate was prepared, he did not see the full scope of the project, and upon working to prepare the bid for the Court, he learned more work was necessary than he originally thought, which was the key element in the price increase.

County Judge H.T. Wright suggested that Commissioners Tom Bonn and Joe Roland meet with Voetee, Earnest and Caldwell County Maintenance Director Curtis Webber, as well as with Blomerth and District Attorney Trey Hicks to evaluate possible changes to the remodel and to report back to the Court before construction moves forward.

In other business, during a brief budget workshop, Wright said he and County Auditor James “Sonny” Rougeou had reviewed the county’s budget for the coming fiscal year and proposed offering employees a 4.5 percent pay increase.
The decision was made, Wright said, after he learned the City of Lockhart planned to offer their employees a 4.5 percent raise.

Rougeou confirmed the money is available to fund the increase and it would not cause the tax rate proposed by the Court last week to rise.

The Commissioners will vote on the budget and tax rate in September.
After the weekend’s rain, and with the promise of more on the way, the Commissioners opted to lift the outdoor burning ban that has been in place for the bulk of the summer.

Noting conditions were still extremely dry in much of the County, they lifted the ban with the caveat that it could be reinstated at any time, without prior notice to the public, if dangerous conditions present themselves.

In brief Court news:
The Commissioners heard a report from architect Joe Santopetro regarding construction of the Caldwell County Jail Annex. Santropetro said construction was on target and moving forward, but pointed to confusion between the contractors and the Lockhart Fire Department regarding the installation of a fire hydrant.

They approved increases in some Sheriffs’ and Constables fees to be charged for the services offered by those agencies.

The Court approved an order for a general election on Nov. 4, 2008.
The county paid bills in the amount of $576,327.17, which includes $10,310.85 for indigent legal defense, $6,932.78 for indigent health care, and a large payment on the construction of the Caldwell County Jail Annex.

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