From the Desk of County Judge Tom D. Bonn
In July of 2010 the Commissioners Court received a Caldwell County Needs Assessment for Judicial Facilities that had been prepared by Broaddus and Associates. They were hired to conduct a professional review of the spatial needs for county judicial facilities. It was known for some time that our current judicial facilities were becoming overcrowded and inefficient.
This report not only looked at our current needs but also took a look at the ten-year projection for our judicial system. The report indicated that our current needs were at 41,000 square feet while our ten-year requirement indicated a space of 55,700 square feet.
The report took into account the offices of the County Clerk, County Court at Law, District Clerk, District Attorney, 421st District Court, 22nd and 207th District Courts, and Adult Probation Department. The report was generated after examination of existing facilities and interviews with the various stakeholders mentioned above.
When this report was prepared there was not an option to purchase the WalMart building and convert it into a Judicial Center. Therefore, the report simply looked at the construction of a new facility to accommodate the needs of the stakeholders.
Even using land the County owned near the current jail, the cost of constructing a new facility of 55,700 square feet to allow for the ten-year growth projections was a whopping $18.7 million. After Commissioners took a deep breath of reality the report was shelved for the time being.
Once the opportunity to purchase the WalMart store became an option, we investigated the possibility and remodeling it into a new Judicial Center. We contacted Randall County officials who purchased a store similar in size to the Lockhart store and converted it into their judicial center. Randall County however, added 20,000 square feet and remodeled the existing 50,000 square foot store for a total remodeling project of 70,000 square feet.
We have been told that the total cost of their purchase and remodel was between $8.5 million and $10 million (70,000 square feet). However, they also replaced the roof and ripped up and replaced the entire floor of the existing building during the remodeling process.
Without a professional estimate for our remodeling costs, it became abundantly clear that purchasing an existing WalMart store and remodeling it would be far more economical than building a new Judicial Center. After seeing the pictures of the Randall County remodel our stakeholders are excited about our future justice and county services facility.
The Commissioners will, however, be asked to support an update of the spatial needs assessment before remodeling decisions are made. We are currently asking Broaddus and Associates for a proposal to update the study by conducting additional interviews with stakeholders in order to make sure we have properly determined their spatial needs for at least a ten-year period.
Regardless of what the total space needs are determined it is agreed that a remodeled WalMart will be a more economical alternative to new construction. Your commissioners and I believe this is investment in our future! We are providing better service for citizens by collocating essential county services with our judicial courts while allowing for the projected ten-year growth requirement.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours.
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