Local contractor to build jail annex


By LPR Staff

Caldwell County officials inked a contract with a local company on Monday to begin construction on the minimum-security annex of the Caldwell County Jail.
After making only minor adjustments to a proposal submitted by Jim Smith of Countywide Builders, the Caldwell County Commissioners agreed to the contract, which should

see construction on the jail annex complete before the end of the year, at a cost of around $307,000.
According to Smith and the County’s architect Joe Santopetro, Countywide Builders considered Texas Commission on Jail Standards regulations at all points through drawing the bid. The men assured the Court that all materials planned for use in the project are approved, and the annex would be effectively ready to occupy as soon as construction is complete.
Smith is known for using local contractors on his projects, which could bring an additional boost to the local economy while the construction project is ongoing.
In other Court business, the Commissioners held the first in a series of public hearings to discuss the budget for the coming fiscal year.
After a number of budget workshops, and after hearing little public input during the hearing, the commissioners made slight changes to the budget on Monday.
Employee pay rates were of paramount concern during budget talks for the county this year. As the cost of living continues to increase, the county commissioners have become more and more concerned that funds would not be available to offer employees a raise. However, this year, the Commissioners did stretch the budget to allow for a 2 percent average pay increase for employees. In addition, one clerk had her rate of pay increased to be on even footing with other clerks in her position.
“There are many inequities in this budget,” County Judge HT Wright noted last week during another budget discussion. “And we have to do what we can to fix them, but we certainly can’t fix them all at once… some of them have been growing for years.”
The County’s budget for this year is exactly balanced, with projected revenues matching projected expenses to the penny. Only $24,000 remains in a “contingency fund” the County historically sets aside for emergency expenses.
In other news, the Commissioners approved a change in employee insurance carriers for the coming year.
On a suggestion from the County’s insurance agent Burke Sunday, the county shopped out their business to major medical insurance providers for the coming year. The decision was based on a nearly 50 percent increase promised by Unicare, the employees’ current insurance provider. Sunday’s firm suggested a return to Humana Insurance, which offered rates competitive to what county employees are being charged now.
The County will also soon begin participation in a program sponsored by the National Association of Counties which will allow uninsured and underinsured county residents to receive a discount on medications.
In brief Commissioners news:
At the request of Caldwell County Fire Marshal Jeff Wright, the Commissioners opted to leave an outdoor burning ban in place, making it a Class C Misdemeanor to participate in unapproved burning in Caldwell County.
The Court discussed the possibility of pulling out of a cooperative project with the Texas Department of Transportation and the City of Lockhart to maintain a wetlands mitigation site north of Lockhart on Highway 183.
The County paid bills in the amount of $104,638.23, including $36,335 in indigent health care expenses and $23,642 for indigent legal defense.
The Caldwell County Commissioners meet on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse. The next meeting, which will include a public hearing regarding the Fiscal Year 2006-2007 Budget will be held on Monday, Sept. 11 at 9 a.m.


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