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Justice center focus of county workshop

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Grimes County commissioners held a workshop Thursday, Sept. 12, to review and discuss plans for existing and future county facilities, and financing for the proposed justice center to be constructed on FM 149 West.

Commissioners discussed the add-on cost for two additional driveways to the justice center and County Judge Joe Fauth also provided commissioners with a written statement from TxDOT, per commissioner Phillip Cox’s request, about safety. TxDOT’s response regarding site distance for access from SH 90 stated “there is no reason why this driveway couldn’t be approved.”

Regarding the investment toward a justice center to-date, Fauth reviewed the payments made to architects PGAL since September 2013 which total $469,430.52 and said, “I share that information with you to say that we can say ‘stop, we’re not going any further,’ but we have paid this amount of money to get us this far in the process.”

Fauth advised the credit rating call will cost $15,000 with the rating good for “typically” one year.

Discussion between the auditor and commissioners covered funds dedicated to the proposed 32,093 SF facility, operating reserves, and interest payments based on borrowing $5 million at 3.5% interest.

Commissioner Phillip Cox acknowledged the need for new facilities but voiced his concern about the ability to make payments on borrowed money for seven years without adverse effects to the county, saying, “I see a path where we wouldn’t have to borrow any money and that’s the path I’d like to go.”

Cox suggested constructing the 24,000 SF justice center as originally planned with courtrooms, District Attorney, District Clerk and County Clerk offices while budgeting for the administrative side to be built later. Adult Probation and Road and Bridge would transition to the Commissioner Court and District Clerk area of the annex as renovations were completed there. Maintenance Manager Al Peeler estimated annex renovations to cost $150,000-$250,000. The departments slated to occupy the renovated annex include Road and Bridge, 9-1-1, Adult Probation and voter storage.

Commissioner Chad Mallett said the commissioners at that time, which included Cox’s predecessor Gary Husfeld, reviewed their options and made the decision to move ahead with the additional 8,000 square feet for administration because, he said, “The difference between that and the additional offices was $2.5 million.”

The bid estimate for three courts, jury and conference rooms, court offices and administration is $12.1 million.

Fauth expressed his concern about neglect of facilities by saying, “If we can figure out how to do this without borrowing any money, that’s certainly the right direction to go. The reason we had to put a big chunk of money over in the fairgrounds is why? Because people neglected to take care of that location in previous years. Are we doing the same thing countywide in that we’re not putting the right amount of money into the right things and we’re neglecting what we have in the rest of the facilities?”

Other department heads weighing in during the workshop included Information Technology Director Greg Cannon on the ability to select subcontractors familiar with transferring the county’s “live” systems. Peeler added that some of his preferred items had been replaced in the design with alternative equipment.

Commissioner Barbara Walker suggested hiring a construction administrator to oversee PGAL’s work on the project.

To view the meeting in its entirety, go to