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

May 3rd, 2010
County breaks ground on new government center

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At the groundbreaking for the Hays County Government Center, from left to right: Precinct 2 Constable James Kohler, Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford, State Senator Jeff Wentworth, Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton, Civil Division Chief Mark Kennedy, Broaddus and Associates President James Broaddus, Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe, U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett, County Judge Liz Sumter, Broadd and Associates Vice President and Austin Area Manager Brenda Jenkins, District Attorney Sherri Tibbe, Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley, Director of the Resource Protection, Transportation and Planning Jerry Borcherding. Photo by Sean Batura.

By SEAN BATURA
News Reporter

Public officials held a groundbreaking ceremony last Friday to herald the construction of what will be the most expensive government building project in the history of Hays County.

Officials at the groundbreaking ceremony estimated that construction firm Balfour Beatty will have the three story, 232,209-square-foot Hays County Government Center built in 18 months. The facility, to be located at 710 South Stagecoach Trail, is intended to serve as a one-stop-shopping location for most county services, including the courts system.

State Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) and U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) were among those attending the groundbreaking ceremony. Wentworth and Doggett joined commissioners court members and other officials in donning hard hats and wielding shovels for the ceremonial dirt-turning.

“I have to say, this is really a rare event for both me and for Senator Wentworth,” Doggett said. “Looks like we get a shiny new hardhat, a shiny shovel, and we get to celebrate this project — and we didn’t have to come up with any of the money for it.”

Broaddus and Associates (B&A) Senior Project Manager Bob Hinkle said recently that the government center total project cost is $65.1 million. In March, commissioners sold $72 million in certificates of obligation (COs) to pay for the government center without voter approval, a first for a bond sale of that magnitude. The government center principle and debt is estimated to total $120,055,562 by 2035, when the COs mature.

By 2014, the county’s annual government center debt payments are estimated to exceed the amount generated from the 4.5 cents currently embedded in the property tax rate for capital improvements, which means commissioners may have to budget at least $500,000 per year thereafter to make the payments, or increase the property tax rate allocation for capital improvements by at least half of a cent.

Doggett congratulated county commissioners court members for getting the long-awaited government center project off the ground, and singled out Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe (D-San Marcos) for her role in spearheading the effort for more than 10 years. Ingalsbe said previous commissioners courts had twice assessed the feasibility of building a government center and never moved forward with the project because “the price tag was way too high.”

The government center early last year was estimated to cost between $100 million and $115 million. After the cost of the building was estimated at $89.5 million in fall 2009, the county used that figure as a ceiling in a call for projects. Twenty-six design-build teams responded, compared to the six to eight proposals that’s usual for such projects, indicating an economic climate fostering hungry contractors. Three top design-build teams emerged with proposals costing between $73,955,339 and $78,123,343.

The county chose the $73,955,339 proposal submitted by Balfour Beatty, which teamed up with architectural firm HDR. On April 13, Hays County commissioners unanimously approved Balfour Beatty’s guaranteed maximum price proposal of $52,085,459, which is more than $6 million less than the $58,288,337 ceiling negotiated in November.

“I think they’ve been excellent stewards — all these commissioners and the judge — of the taxpayers’ money,” Doggett said. “So often, when you have the kind of rapid change that Hays County has had, it pulls the community apart. But as I saw last weekend, whether it was at Aquarena (Center Earth Day Celebration in San Marcos) or at the wiener dog races (in Buda), these communities that make Hays County really do come together and grow stronger with the growth that has occurred here. It came as no surprise that Business Week chose San Marcos as one of the best places in the country to raise kids, and that, I believe, according to the figures, Hays County is in the top 15 … most rapidly-growing counties in our nation. It is good work when you can not only meet your budget goals, but come in substantially under budget, as the current commissioners court pulled in project management experts to insure that occurred.”

The “project management experts” Doggett referred to are from Austin-based B&A, which the commissioners court unanimously voted to hire in April 2009 to oversee the government center project. The county budgeted $1,000,000 this year for payments to B&A for work related to the government center.

As of early April, the county had paid B&A $136,752.56 for managing repairs to the jail, $135,800.40 for overseeing a study of the jail and justice system, $80,089 for managing the ongoing expansion of the county’s RPTP building, $34,763.44 for overseeing efforts to relocate the Precinct 2 commissioner office, $11,053.35 for work related to the contemplated relocation of the Precinct 3 commissioner office, $36,863.67 for overseeing a study of the county’s telecommunications system, and $2,118 for services related to development of the county’s Strategic Plan.

“Our fees are not based on a percentage; it is totally based on the scope of work that is required, the number of staff and the expertise
required,” said B&A Vice President and Austin Area Manager Brenda Jenkins in mid-April. “B&A currently manages approximately $4 billion in projects (and) we have saved our clients our fees almost 100 percent of the time.”

County officials have said B&A has saved taxpayers millions on the government center and other projects.

“I’m pleased because you saved a bunch of money,” Wentworth said during his public remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony. “As it turned out, the timing was such that constructions were going to be low, and money that you’re having to borrow is just a little over four percent, which is phenomenal. I’m confident that it’s going to be a fabulous building and I look forward to coming up here and working in it when it’s finished. Congratulations.”

In addition to its work in managing several other capital improvement projects for the county, B&A was the program manager firm for the San Marcos Conference Center project and helped create the City of San Marcos’ downtown master plan, Texas State’s campus master plan and the Bobcat Stadium master plan. B&A was the program manager for the Bobcat Stadium project.

“I got to say, I have to applaud your vision, the vision of the court, the tenacity of Commissioner Ingalsbe, and the perseverance of the (government center) steering committee that has spent hours and hours and hours, holed-up,” Jenkins said during her public remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony. “I’ve just got to say, this is the best group that I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with, and I really appreciate that. This is a tough time for a building of this magnitude to be put in any place. And Hays County — the courage that you had, commissioners — I’m just amazed at the courage you had … What you have in this is a building that is unique, it’s historic, and it fits into this county, and I think it’s one that you are absolutely going to be proud of.”

Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe (D-Buda) said the new county facilities will be “like night and day” compared to what currently exists.

“This day’s been a long time coming and I’m thrilled for everybody, the citizens, because we’ve saved so much money,” Tibbe said.

Months ago, Tibbe urged commissioners to expedite building the government center, speaking of inadequate facilities for employees and residents. Tibbe, whose office is scattered in three locations, said the adult probation office, divided by a pizza restaurant and located near a bar, is in an inappropriate location. Tibbe said she looks forward to most county offices being in one place, having adequate space and facilities for victims and protective order applicants when they come to her office.

“We have one hallway (at the Hays County Justice Center) that only one person can walk down at a time because of the filing cabinet — it has boxes on top of it,” Tibbe said.

Tibbe said county employees in her office two years ago considered the idea of a government center a dream. One employee said the prospect of new offices for staff was less a dream than a joke.

“And there are still a lot of skeptics in the courthouse, because they’ve been told so many times that they’re getting a new building, and they haven’t,” Tibbe said. “But you have to give a lot of credit to this commissioners court that took this project on. Because most on this court are new, and they have taken it on and done a phenomenal job.”

428th District Judge Bill Henry, also in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony, said there is “still some healthy skepticism” about the government center.

“I think with any change there’s some getting used to, but I think it’s going to be a vast improvement,” Henry said.

Hinkle said neither the government center building nor any paving structures will be located in the 100 year flood plain. Therefore, the county will not be required to buy flood insurance. Hinkle said no one’s parked cars will be in a flood area.

The government center will include the following offices and square footages on the indicated floors:

Floor 1

• Information Technology – 4,452
• Building Support – 4,668
• Adult Probation – 14,371
• Central Inmate Holding – 9,225
• Juvenile Probation – 7,020
• Grants Administration – 773
• Conference Center – 2,508
• Fitness – 1,365
• Cafeteria/Snack – 1,976
• Courthouse Security – 1,473
• Public Lobby – 8,576
• Elections – 2,258
• Staff Support – 1,874
• Human Resources – 2,977
• Auditor – 4,403
• Treasurer – 3,053
• Tax Assessor – 6,104

Floor 2

• District Clerk – 6,668
• Constable – 2,350
• Compliance & Collections – 1,912
• Staff Support – 1,476
• Justice of the Peace – 7,155
• County Court at Law – 17,237
• County Clerk – 9,513
• Law Library – 1,216
• Day Offices – 570
• Grand Jury – 1,501
• District Attorney – 17,375

Floor 3
• District Court – 34,481
• Staff Support – 270

(Editor’s note: The photo cutline has been revised to correctly identify U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett.)

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0 thoughts on “County breaks ground on new government center

  1. SENATOR Doggett? I’d also bet that some of those offices might be shifted around by the time the center is actually built.

  2. I used to tell people that I would believe the Government Center was going to be built the day I saw them pour the the foundation. I guess I now believe

  3. Reminds me of hogs at the feeding trough. Each one trying to get all they can.

    Not a single ordinary citizen symbolizing taxpayers who will foot the huge bill. Just spenders and special interest beneficiaries of that spending.

    And so it goes.

  4. The imagery is unfortunate — representatives shoveling more onto the governed. How many $65 million dollar faciilities have been built here for something besides government in the last ten years? Every time I see a massive project, it is something funded with tax dollars, either at the university, the school district or the county; it just doesn’t seem like there is enough commerce to pay all those at the trough, no matter what Representative Doggett has to say about fiscal responsibility (odd authority). Sure the Justice Center is embarassing, but there had to be some other solution short of a 1,365 square foot fitness center, 8,500 square foot lobby, etc. — paving the road to serfdom.

  5. John,

    Don’t fool yourself—“The government center principle and debt is estimated to total $120,055,562 by 2035, when the COs mature.”

    Bonds issued by commissioners’ court specifically without approval or voice of those who will continue to repay the public debt in higher taxes for years ahead. I control my personal debt but am forced to accept responsibility for certificates of obligation approved by five individuals who shovel dirt onto the citizens.

    Notice how there was not a word from Commissioners Barton and Conley who will claim they had nothing to do with this huge public debt—but who pushed it through commissioners’ court. Such hypocrisy and self serving behavior. That’s why Barton and Conley are popularly known as “Weasel” and “Kingfish.”

  6. Fifteen years ago Hays County decided to do things on the cheap, occupy a old grocery store and provide new court rooms and offices for as little money as possible, and we got the Justice Center. Every once in a while a government has to spend money, especially in a county growing as fast as ours is. I would prefer that we spend a little more money to build something that will last, and which is not an embarasment.

  7. I never felt any “embarrassment” for our present “Justice Outlet” !!!??

    I doubt I will feel any overwhelming sense of “pride” in the new one either, but I know I WILL feel the weight of the 80,000,000.00 price tag, and then there WILL BE the inevitable future guaranteed salary increases.

    And that’s just on the county level, not to mention the continued extravagances of our City of San Marcos municipal government!!!

    Meanwhile we citizens are all taking pay cuts, paying higher and higher taxes, and working harder just to make ends meet.

    When will it end?

  8. The $80 million would have been better spent on roads that add value to property. The county building was poorly planned, poorly studied and too early. But the cow is out of the barn now.

  9. Its interesting Larry said our justice department is an embarrassment. I think revitalizing and reusing what we already have is an extremely positive and unique quality of city fiscal responsibility. Do what you can with what you have; now that is something I could take some pride in. This reminds me of a careless teenager who has maxed out their credit card only to have the limit significantly raised.

  10. In many cases the fiscally responsible thing to do is to spend al little more money to build something that will last. Doing otherwise is being penny wise and pound foolish. If this county had spent more money 15 years ago building a well built justice center we would not be having to spend this money today

  11. Congressman Doggett voted to kill the Glass-Steagall Act. His vote helped an eager Clinton administration pass the Gramm Leach Bliley Act.

  12. Pingback: QUOTE CORNER - San Marcos Local News

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