Justice center plans get green light


Austin County commissioners continued Monday with plans to construct a new jail and justice center complex.

A $17 million bond issue was approved in November to cover costs of the justice center complex. The upgrades to the jail had to be handled separately because that facility is regulated by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and would have to be done even if the bond issue did not pass.

Architect Kenny Burns presented schematic drawings at Monday’s meeting and said they have the blessing of the jail commission. He also has held meetings with the sheriff and individual commissioners as plans progress.

They now are dealing with things like working with the Lower Colorado River Authority to move a transmission line.

“It’s not easy dealing with LCRA as y’all can imagine,” Burns said. “They jumped out there and said yes we can do this. We finally had a conference call the other day with the head of government affairs and he tried to talk us out of moving the transmission line. We finally got him to understand that if we don’t move the transmission line we can’t do what we’re trying to do.”

Burns also asked for approval to do a soil report that would aid in the design of the building foundation and end up saving quite a bit of money.

Commissioner Bobby Rinn expressed concern that the price tag was climbing up.

“It just concerns me that we didn’t even get started on the ground yet and now we have some additional costs,” Rinn said. “I’m not against doing the soil report. We need to do that. It was just that initially we didn’t discuss that.”

The soil report for the justice center would cost about $3,800 and the report for the jail and sheriff’s office is priced at $2,900.

“That’s our recommendation,” Burns said. “The jail was designed for heavy loads and the recommendations we get and the way they tell us to design the foundation, these buildings [the justice center and sheriff’s office] don’t have those heavy loads. We get recommendations from the soils engineer which means the foundation is going to cost less money to build. This could save us tens of thousands of dollars.”

The matter was approved and Burns asked to meet with County Judge Tim Lapham and at least one commissioner later this week to further review the project plans.

Construction is set to begin late this year.


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