County approves judicial center design contract
Polk County Enterprise, April 2007
LIVINGSTON — County commissioners approved an agreement Tuesday with Hesters and Sanders Architecture LLP for a schematic design of the judicial center to be built on the Pedigo block just south of the courthouse.
Jake Sherman, co-chairman of the Facility Study Group, said his group has studied the needs of the departments who support district court operations. They recommended that the county use the Pedigo block — which the county already owned — for a judicial center complex.
The 10-member group called in architects and engineers to evaluate the structural integrity of the buildings currently standing on that block, Sherman said.
Those experts said the Ford and Greer buildings on each end of the block remain structurally sound and should be renovated for county office space.
Hesters and Sanders will design a building to replace the structures in the middle of of the block, which are too deteriorated to renovate, experts said.
County work crews will demolish those middle buildings, Sherman said.
Commissioners approved setting aside $10,000 from existing fund balances and set up a separate line item in the budget for expenses relating to the judicial center design.
The Lufkin architecture firm will charge $4,400 for the schematic design and that will be deducted from that $10,000, County Judge John Thompson said. That line item will also track other miscellaneous expenses related to the project.
"This group has spent virtually nothing during the early phases of their work," Thompson said.
The projected budget for the judicial center project is $10 million, Thompson said.
County commissioners also unanimously passed a resolution opposing a two-year mortarium on public-private toll roads that is being proposed in two bills before the Texas Legislature, Senate Bill 1267 and House Bill 2772.
The legislature approved joint efforts between public and private entities in earlier sessions when federal highway funds continued to decline but demand for highway construction projects increased, Thompson said during Tuesday's court session.
Under that plan, private companies build the roads and collect tolls from users, Thompson said.
Concerns about contract specifications relating to buyback provisions and noncompete clauses with Cintra-Zachry prompted the two bills to be filed.
Cintra-Zachry is a coalition of firms that includes the Texas firm Zachry Construction and Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, which is headquartered in Madrid, Spain.
Thompson said the concerns should be addressed while the Legislature is in session, not delayed another two years.
"We want to fix both issues. We are not telling them how to fix it, but we don't want them to put this entire project on hold," Thompson said.
Commissioner Robert Willis said he had been told that the buyback specifications had been changed to require the state to repay the private companies for their investment in the project plus a reasonable rate of attorney as well as 50 years' worth of toll revenues.
"I think there's some sticky fingers involved in writing this contract," Willis said.
Thompson added that somebody has to fund badly needed highway projects and the I-69 project has been underway for over a decade.
In Texas, I-69 will intersect with the U.S. Route 59 corridor near Carthage and roughly follow US 59 to the south, serving Nacogdoches, Lufkin, Livingston, Shepherd, and Cleveland.
County officials have received a $53,500 grant from the state to assist with eradicating potential carriers of the West Nile virus, Emergency Management Coordinator Kenneth Hambrick told commissioners.
The grant funds will be used for equipment and supplies to handle mosquito fogging operations, Hambrick said.
The county will also step up trapping efforts and submit samples to the health department for testing.
Fogging could begin in a couple of weeks, Hambrick said after the meeting.
Commissioners reappointed Thompson and Commissioner Tommy Overstreet to serve on the Deep East Texas Council of Government’s Board of Directors for the 2007-08 term.
The court also appointed Overstreet and Commissioner Ronnie Vincent to evaluate two proposals for engineering services for the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Grant program.
Action will be considered at the next commisioners court meeting, Thompson said.
Other items approved during Tuesday's session include:
• A request from the Rural East Texas Health Network and the Burke Center to approve an agreement on procedures used in mental health crisis situations.
• A lease renewal for Health and Human Services Commission office space in the James J. "Buddy" Purvis Health and Human Services Building in Corrigan, and
• Approval of a service contract with Advantage Security Integration Ltd. to maintain the courthouse security camera system.