ILLUSTRATION by PBS&J
Artist’s rendering of the proposed Hays County Government Center as seen from a recently completed extension of Stagecoach Road. County leaders have asked a consulting firm to scale down the plan.
by BRAD ROLLINS
Faced with an estimated cost that has surged to about $115 million, county leaders this week instructed an outside project manager to reconfigure — and scale down — plans for a massive new government center to house a range of offices and courts.
In what County Judge Elizabeth Sumter called a wake up call for the commissioners court, Brenda Jenkins of Austin-based consulting firm Broaddus & Associates said in a workshop on Tuesday that the seven-floor, 321,890-square-foot building, as designed, will cost $94 million to build, a projection within 5 percent of building designer PBS&J’s $90 million construction estimate. But that number doesn’t account for $21 million in related expenses that include furnishings, data and phone wiring, utility infrastructure, road extension costs, permitting fees, bond issuance fees, moving expenses and professional services fees.
Court members dismissed out of hand moving forward with the building as currently designed and also rejected options laid out by Broaddus that, for example, lopped off a floor in an attempt to bring the total cost closer to $100 million. Instead, the court instructed Broaddus consultants to start with staffing projections and attendant space needs established by elected officials and department heads and work from there to design a more affordable building.
Said Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton, “I think now is the time to go back and make sure we have the right-sized building.”
One option for rejiggering plans, Broaddus consultants said, is abandoning plans to construct a building to accommodate expected growth through 2030. Instead, the building can be designed with future additions in mind.
The effort to trim the government center project comes against a backdrop of mounting capital expenses for the county.
The total county tax rate would have to increase from 45.5 cents per $100 in value to 54.12 cents per $100 by 2013 to pay for $380 million in anticipated capital projects, according to projections by County Auditor Bill Herzog. These include $207 million in road projects approved by voters last year and $30 million in parks approved by voters in 2007. In addition, Herzog’s projections allow $40 million for either a new or renovated jail.
As currently designed, the government center would include offices and courtrooms for district, county and two justice of the peace courts in addition to office space for the district clerk, county clerk, adult and juvenile probation, compliance and collections, district attorney, auditor, elections, human resources, information technology, tax assessor, treasurer and veterans affairs.
Sumter said on Tuesday that she favors removing the courts and related judicial offices from the government center and including them in a separate facility along with a new jail.
CORRECTION: The photo cutline originally referred to a planned extension of Stagecoach Road. The extension past its former terminus at Wonder World Drive. The extension has already been completed.