Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - August 2009
Copyright 2009 - Polk County Publishing Company
County lifts burn ban; okays building change
Houston County Courier - August 2009
GROVETON – A countywide rural ban on all outdoor burning was lifted Monday, Aug. 31, in response to recent rains.
During a special meeting of the Trinity County commissioners, the ban which had been in place since June 26 came to an end.
“The drought’s not over but we have had some rainfall,” County Judge Mark Evans noted. “People still need to take care when burning. They need to be mindful of the wind and take precautions.”
Pct. 3 Commissioner Cecil Webb noted that some areas of the county received more rainfall than others so there are places where the danger of wildfire is still relatively high.
“In the Groveton area it (rainfall) has been hit and miss,” Pct. 2 Commissioner Grover “Tiger” Worsham added. “We probably haven’t gotten an inch at my place, but everybody seems to want it (the burn ban) off.”
When burning, commissioners urged county residents not to leave the fire unattended and to have a working water hose ready in the event the fire starts to get out of control.
In other business during the meeting, commissioners met with courthouse architect Michael Gaertner regarding “Change Order 2” in the courthouse renovation project.
In August, commissioners approved Change Order 1, which added almost $170,000 to the cost of the project. The added money was needed to remove asbestos found in the building.
The original bid of $4.7 million for the renovation work had included about $20,000 for asbestos removal but once the contractor began demolition work on the building, it was discovered that a great deal more of the hazardous material was in the courthouse than previously thought.
Change Order 2 was not as expensive as the first change and added only about $28,000 to the project cost.
Gaertner explained the order would cover three areas, including an additional $17,500 into the courthouse’s audio-visual and security system budget.
That budget originally contained $52,500 but was increased Monday to $70,000.
“We may not spend it all, but we felt we needed to increase the budget to make sure we had enough money on hand for the work,” the architect said.
Evans explained the change was sought due to suggestions that came out of the county’s building committee meetings.
“One of the things we’re talking about is inviting the U.S. Marshal Service to come in an perform a security survey of the building,” he said, adding that recommendations coming out of the survey would then be presented to the commissioners for possible adoption.
Also included in Change Order 2 was an additional $5,000 for an acoustical plaster treatment for the ceiling of the second-floor district courtroom.
Gaertner explained that the original bid called for a fabric ceiling surface in the courtroom but he and the Texas Historical Commission officials were now recommending the plaster surface.
“The plaster treatment will be more durable and will be easier to maintain than the cloth so we are recommending it,” he said.
Also in the change order is an additional $5,364 to change the type of refrigerant that will be used in the courthouse air conditioning system.
The original contract called for R22 refrigerant but Gaertner told commissioners that grade of coolant was being phased out.
“You’re going to have to make this change in the future when they stop making R22 so we thought we might as well do it now,” he said.
Under the change order, the R22 would be changed to R410.
During the discussion on the change order, Worsham noted that after commissioners approved Change Order 1, he received a number of concerned comments from local citizens.
“People read about this in the newspaper and think the county will have to pay for the changes,” he said. “I just want to make sure that this changes are covered by the grant.”
“Absolutely,” Gaertner said.
He noted that the asbestos removal as well as the changes approved Monday fall under the grant program.
Under that program, the THC grant pays about 80 percent of the cost while certificates of obligation issued by the county pays the remainder.
The architect noted that the local funds set aside for the project total about $1.5 million while the grant was for $5 million, making $6.5 million available for the project.
“Because the bids came in so low, you are not going to have to spend all of the money you set aside for the project,” he said, adding he expects about 20 percent of the county’s $1.5 million (about $300,000) to be left when the project is completed.
“The bids that came in were a reflection of the economic times,” Evans added. “It is unfortunate that this economy is negatively affecting so many people’s livelihood, but we got some excellent bids as a result.”
Pct. 2 Commissioner Janette Hortman, who is a member of the county’s building committee, also voiced her thanks to all those involved in the renovation project.
“I appreciate how smoothly things are going,” she said. “Even thought we’ve had some bumps, everybody is working together.”
In his report to the commissioners, Gaertner noted that the asbestos removal is currently underway and that 80 percent of the material had been removed from the first floor.