By SEAN BATURA
Hays County commissioners committed almost $2 million last week for a 13,842 square-foot expansion of a county building on Yarrington Road.
The decision to expand the future home of the consolidated Resource Protection, Transportation and Planning (RPTP) Department came less than two weeks after the groundbreaking ceremony for the three-story, 232,209 square-foot Hays County Government Center.
The county’s financial advisor firm, Specialized Public Finance, estimated the government center will cost $120,055,562 when the recently-issued $72 million in certificates of obligation mature in 2035. Commissioners also are contemplating an expansion of the county jail for $25 million or less, after budgeting $1,678,456 in repairs to the jail. The jail failed repeated inspections by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards last year.
The RPTP building expansion may be complete by Dec. 21.
County commissioners unanimously approved a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) of $1,653,167 to Austin-based Flynn Construction, Inc., for building the RPTP building expansion. Flynn Construction teamed up with Austin-based Polkinghorn Group (PGA) Architects, Inc. for the design-build project. Soft costs associated with the project are estimated at $292,826, and commissioners added five features totaling $48,550 just before their final vote on the GMP, for a total project cost of $1,994,543.
If commissioners determine there will be savings due to low subcontractor bids, they may opt to add perhaps five more features, the least expensive of which costs $6,900 and the most expensive of which totals $47,300.
A few years ago, the county’s road and environmental health departments became two divisions of the RPTP Department, though they remain geographically separate. The environmental health division is located at 1251 Civic Center Loop, and the road division is housed in the soon-to-be expanded building at 2171 Yarrington Road.
The commissioners court voted 3-2 on April 13 to increase the expansion by 1,475 square feet to accommodate the fire marshal’s office, which is now split between two locations. The addition of the fire marshal’s office is estimated to cost $255,000.
Most county offices, in addition to the county court at law and district courts, will be located in the government center, estimated for completion in 18 months. On April 30, RPTP Director Jerry Borcherding said placing his department in the government center would not be cost-effective.
“The additional square footage required — it would have been a very expensive space for those kinds of operations,” Borcherding said. “Environmental health has a lot of people who are there for a short period of time in the morning, and they leave and do field work, and then they’re back in the afternoon. And to reserve expensive square footage — office space — for them in the government center, would just not have been a wise decision. We have a less expensive building that’s fully adequate for their operations, and it consolidates our permitting process.”
Commissioners anticipate voting on a fire code at some future date, which means some builders may need additional permits from the fire marshal’s office. Proponents of incorporating the fire marshal’s office in the RPTP building said it is worth the cost because residents should be able to get all required county-issued permits at one location.
Hays County Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford (D-Dripping Springs), who voted against putting the fire marshal’s office in the RPTP Department building, said last month that the RPTP building’s 12,367 square-foot expansion may have accommodated some fire marshal staff with permit-issuing capability without the addition of 1,475 more square feet.
Hays County Judge Liz Sumter (D-Wimberley), who also voted against adding the 1,475 square feet, said she does not object to the associated cost itself, but wants more budgetary flexibility for the remaining fiscal year. Sumter said the court may someday opt to reconfigure the fire marshal’s duties and designate fire code-related permitting to another department.
The RPTP building expansion will be paid for with money remaining in a “miscellaneous capital improvements” line item, funded with a portion of the property tax rate. Hays County Auditor Bill Herzog said that about $250,000 remains in the line item, taking into account commitments including the RPTP building project.
Herzog said the county is unlikely to deplete the line item, which might now be zero if $1 million had not been rolled-over from last year’s budget. Approximately $4.5 million per year is generated from 4.5 cents per $100 of taxable valuation. The court increased the miscellaneous capital improvements line item from three cents per $100 of taxable valuation in last year’s budget to 4.5 cents per $100 of taxable valuation in this year’s budget.
Commissioners encouraged Flynn Construction to hire local subcontractors. Hays County Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley (R-Wimberley) said Austin-based subcontractors are not local enough.
“So, electricians, plumbers, etc. — we would like as many of those people to be from our county as possible,” Conley said.
Flynn Construction Project Manager Scott Dodd told the court that his firm would advertise locally, adding that electrical, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning work may be available to local low-bidders.
“It is a very competitive market right now, and we did get a lot of good feedback, a lot of people looking at this project,” Dodd said. “So, it is a good project and I think we’ll have a real turnout.”
RPTP Building Project Manager Codi Newsom of Broaddus and Associates (B&A) said a meet-and-greet held for local contractors will take place near the end of June before bids are sought. Dodd said his firm will advertise for local bidders on his company’s website and in local papers two weeks before the bid opening date. Information for interested contractors will be available on the county’s website. Conley suggested that Dodd’s firm contact local chambers of commerce, and Ford asked the company to advertise in newspapers serving cities like Wimberley and Dripping Springs.
“I’d like you to reach out to the west a little bit,” Ford said.
The RPTP building expansion had once been estimated to cost $3.17 million by New York-based engineering and architectural firm MRB Group, which the county last year hired for preliminary architectural programming, geotechnical, site survey, preliminary engineering work, and concept plan development. MRB Group’s design called for either an expansion of 12,285 square feet or 12,482 square feet for the RPTP department building — less than called for by PGA Architects’ design.
“I think the whole scope of the project changed, that’s the main reason,” Conley said when asked why the county didn’t retain MRB Group for longer. “The fire marshal came into the equation — I think it just all changed, that was the main thing. At that time, we turned it over to Broaddus and that’s the route they decided to go. I believe that the number-one reason for us changing was that the whole scope of the project changed. That’s what I remember.”
The county paid MRB Group $66,102 for its work on the RPTP Building expansion project.
Newsom said most of MRB’s scope of work was preserved in the final design of the RPTP Building expansion. Newsom said MRB Group’s schematic design was the only element of the firm’s scope not preserved. Newsom said she could not quantify the value of the schematic design produced by MRB, though she said the county did not pay for the new design produced by B&A and PGA.
“We ate it, yeah.” Newsom said.
MRB Group was among four firms in the front-running for the government center program manager job, which went to B&A. Since commissioners hired B&A last year to be program manager for the government center, the firm has come to manage other capital improvement projects for the county. Commissioners agreed to pay B&A no more than $3.5 million for work related to the government center.
County officials and B&A staff have said the county has saved $1 million on the RPTP Department building expansion project and $6 million on the government center due to B&A’s work.
“(B&A’s) oversight and insight into office efficiency and construction, technology that they possess, the knowledge that they possess, was instrumental in getting that price down,” Borcherding said of the RPTP Building expansion project cost.
As of April, the county paid $80,089 to B&A for managing the RPTP Building project and $630,353.87 for work related to the government center. County officials say B&A saved taxpayers more than the firm’s fees, and B&A Vice President Brenda Jenkins said her company achieves this outcome almost 100 percent of the time.
The five items totaling $48,550 and approved by commissioners just before the GMP vote last week include:
• $1,950 for electronic keypads for the fire marshal section exit. Most commissioners determined more security was needed for the fire marshal, who sometimes interviews suspected arsonists.
• $18,000 for one folding partition in the conference to allow events such as insurance, food handlers, or staff meetings to occur simultaneously.
• $17,300 for infrastructure to enable the placement of an electricity generator. Most court members determined a backup generator may be needed in the event first responders require the services of the RPTP Department’s Geographic Information System (GIS) or 9-1-1 emergency response system.
• $6,300 for an intrusion security system.
• $5,000 for the design of vegetative filter strips to provide erosion and water-quality protection after rain events. Commissioners said that because the county requires developers to undertake water quality protection measures, it is only fair for the county to do the same when building. The cost of installing the system would be about $21,000.
Commissioners unanimously opted not to pay for a 13,000-gallon, $31,000 rainwater collection system for the RPTP building because Borcherding informed them the water would either sit unused for long periods of time or be depleted quickly in the course of normal, construction-related operations.
Ford, the court’s most vocal champion of rainwater collection, said it “killed her” to decide against installing such a system at the RPTP building, and agreed with the other court members and Borcherding that buying the item would not be worth the cost.Email | Print