By Kathi Bliss
The long-embattled Caldwell County Judicial Annex returned to the forefront of conversation on Monday morning as the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court heard information about the building’s status and condition, and considered the best course of action moving forward.
The former bank building located at the corner of San Antonio and Commerce Streets in Lockhart currently houses the District Courts, the Caldwell County District Clerk’s Office and the Caldwell County District Attorney’s Office. Shortly after the building was occupied, and later remodeled to add a second courtroom, its uses grew so considerably that its residents “outgrew” the building.
Still, with the lack of available building inventory, the occupants continue “making do,” shifting storage spaces and rearranging offices to try to cope with their growing workload.
The problem is the same in most of the County’s buildings, according to Commissioner John Cyrier, who drove an initiative last year to have the county’s facilities evaluated so the Court could have a firmer grasp of the needs of each county department.
As that evaluation took place, it became evident that there were roof leaks in the Judicial Annex. The next question was how severe were those leaks, what damage had they already caused, and what could – or should – be done to remedy them.
Representatives from the County’s consulting firm, Broaddus and Associates, approached the Court on Monday to report on the current status of the project, which was originally pitched as a three-phase plan to evaluate and possibly renovate the building.
The “evaluation” portion entailed in Phase One of the project has been completed, and though it yielded better results than the Commissioners had originally feared, the news still was not perfect.
“We know that there has been water seepage, from both roofs and into the columns,” said Brenda Jenkins, a representative from Broaddus. “We didn’t want to damage the existing structure to determine the extent of that damage. But we also suspected mold infiltration, and in examining the building, we didn’t find that to be a problem.”
The evaluation phase of the project was contracted at a cost of $11,953, and Cyrier, Commissioner Fred Buchholtz and Maintenance Supervisor Curtis Weber all took part in the process. However, the three voiced different opinions about what should happen next.
Broaddus’s original pitch suggested a second phase, procurement, which will involve the consultants working with architects and contractors to determine the needs and the cost of the project.
That consulting service will cost the county another $31,000, an expense Buchholtz expressed concern about.
“I want to get in there and see what’s going to be best,” the Commissioner, who has
experience in real estate and commercial construction, said. “I don’t want to move forward with Phase Two yet, until we know what we’re really looking at, and whether it’s going to be even worth it to make the repairs to the building.”
Cyrier advocated for moving forward, but said that the County had no one either on staff or on the Court that was qualified to prepare the kind of specifications the job would entail. He also cautioned the Court that even if a need arose to move the Judicial Center, the building would still be a part of the County’s inventory, and needed to be maintained.
Weber left the room during the discussion.
After some back-and-forth, the Court opted to accept the Phase One report, and table moving forward until their next meeting.
In brief business:
The Court heard a presentation from the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) regarding the services the organization provides and the plans it has for regional development in the future. They also entered an agreement with the organization to receive a $4,000 grant for reimbursement of scrap tire recycling.
At the urging of Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Parker, they opted to reinstate an outdoor burning ban.
The Court approved the donation of a Crown Victoria vehicle from the Luling Police Department, which will be assigned to the District Attorney’s Office for that department’s specific use.
The County paid bills in the amount of $58,955.41, which included $7,369.42 for indigent legal defense fees.
The Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court meets on the second third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the Conference Center at the Scott Annex, 1403 Blackjack St., in Lockhart.