San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

October 16th, 2009
County hires builder for government center


Managing Editor

After more than a decade of planning — including a contentious site selection process and a late-hour scramble to drastically scale down plans — Hays County commissioners this week chose a builder for the largest and most expensive facilities project in its history.

Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe, who has shepherded the project through two county judge administrations and countless delays, choked up a little as she moved on Tuesday to name a partnership between Balfour Beatty Realty and HDR Consulting as the design-build firm for construction of a 233,600-square-foot government center to house Hays County courts and offices.

Balfour Beatty/HDR’s proposal promises to deliver the building and all related infrastructure at $73,955,339, about $15.5 million less than the cap set by the court last month. The pricetag is also $41.1 million less than the $118 million estimated total cost of a six-floor, 305,700-square-foot building conceived by another firm, PBS&J, before the court decided in June to order project manager Broaddus & Associates to rethink the size and scope of the building.

“We’re in the middle of a perfect storm in a good way,” said Broaddus’ Brenda Jenkins, singling out hungry contractors as a lead cause of the shrinking bottom line.

The commissioners court approved Balfour Beatty/HDR with a 5-0 vote. Under the firms’ proposal, the building is supposed to be ready for move-in sometime in 2011.

The total cost estimate includes the value of 10 acres on IH-35 swapped with San Marcos developer W.C. Carson for 26 acres on a recently completed extension of Stagecoach Trail off Wonder World Drive. The county also bought five adjoining acres from Carson Properties for $217,000, half its appraised value; the Carsons contributed four more acres as part of the deal.

The building will include six state district court courtrooms, three county court at law courtrooms and one justice of the peace courtroom in addition to office space for adult and juvenile probation, the district attorney, district and county clerks, Pct. 1 constable, elections, human resources, information technology, tax assessor-collector, treasurer, veteran affairs and compliance offices.

Many of the judiciary-related offices are currently housed in a former H-E-B grocery store near downtown San Marcos, the inhabitants of which have been among the most aggressive in advocating for the new facility. District Attorney Sherri Tibbe said, “A courts building should bring a sense of authority and dignity. The building we have now does neither.”

Addressing court members on Tuesday, County Auditor Bill Herzog identified further areas of savings that he said would bring the total project cost to $72.7 million – he estimates debt issuance costs at $2.4 million, $1.8 million less than Broaddus’ $4.2 million estimate.

“This is the perfect time to build, the perfect time to finance and we desperately need it,” Herzog said.

San Marcos Mercury Managing Editor Brad Rollins writes about Hays County for the Hays Free Press where this story originally was published.

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