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
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:
• 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
• 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
• District Court – 34,481
• Staff Support – 270
(Editor’s note: The photo cutline has been revised to correctly identify U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett.)Email | Print