|Trinity Standard - Local News
Stories Added - July 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company
County seeks to restore courthouse funds
Trinity Standard -
GROVETON – With contingency funds now running low, Trinity County will be asking the Texas Historical Commission (THC) to restore at least part of the $300,000 removed from the courthouse restoration grant last year. During the meeting of the Trinity County Commissioners Court on Monday, July 12, project architect Michael Gaertner presented a list of change orders that reduced the contingency fund for the project to about $20,000 – down from the original $500,000 set aside when work began in April 2009. Gaertner noted that before the renovation work is completed, he expects there will be another $150,000 to $200,000 in changes needed in the construction contract. To keep the county from having to bear the burden of the entire cost, the architect said he will meet with the THC’s board during their July 29 meeting in Austin to ask that some of the grant funds removed by the agency last year. Gaertner explained THC originally awarded Trinity County a $5 million grant for the project and that the county sold an additional $1.6 million in certificates of obligation to pay for the project. When the low bid for the work came in last year at $4.7 million, THC cut the local grant by $300,000 and put that money back into its grant program for other projects. At that time, Gaertner assured local officials that if the money was needed before the end of the project, THC had promised to restore the cut funds. While the contingency fund for the project initially contained almost $500,000 to cover changes, major unplanned expenses, such as extensive asbestos removal last year, depleted the fund fairly fast. During Monday’s meeting, Gaertner presented a list of nine proposed changes to the construction contract, which would have added over $47,700 to the total cost and more than depleted the $42,000 remaining in the contingency fund. However, the architect recommended that one change be put on hold to give him time to investigate alternatives and that another major change involving the upper parapet walls be deleted in favor of a much cheaper option. He noted that the parapet walls, which extend above the roof at the top of the courthouse, had originally be filled with loose bricks. He said the inner and outer layer of bricks had been stacked and mortared into place but the central area of the wall contained lose bricks that appeared to have been dumped in as filler. Although the parapet walls have stood for almost 100 years, Gaertner said this arrangement was not structurally sound and needed to be corrected. However, instead of rebuilding the parapet walls at an additional cost of $13,800, Gaertner said the problem could be corrected by injecting grout into the central space around the loose bricks. “This will be a lot cheaper than having to rebuilt the walls and it will not cause a delay in the project’s completion,” he told commissioners. The most expensive change approved by commissioners Monday involved laying an Ardex floor in the old second floor commissioners court meeting room and restoring an historic tile floor in the anti-room leading into the old commissioners’ courtroom. This item added about $12,350 to the contract. During his meeting with commissioners, the architect warned there were some additional costly contract changes on the near horizon. He noted that only $25,000 was included in the original bid for courthouse security work and he expected there would be a need for additional money in that area. A meeting between the architect, contractor and county officials was to have been held this week to discuss that area of the project. In addition, Gaertner estimated that another $50,000 change would be needed to restore decorative light fixtures to the restoration plan. He explained that the decorative light fixtures were included in his original design but that THC officials had cut them in favor of simple lighting fixtures. However, after the contract was awarded and construction had begun, evidence was uncovered that the decorative fixtures were used when the courthouse was built in 1914. Because THC wants to return the building to as close to its original appearance as possible, the decorative light fixtures are now back on the table. Tight budget on horizon During Monday’s meeting, County Judge Mark Evans warned commissioners and other elected officials that the 2010-11 budget will be tight. “We are proceeding with work on the proposed budget for next year and have sent out the usual requests to officials (for their funding needs),” Evans said. “Anyone who has sat in on our meetings should know that this is not a year to be asked for additional items,” he added. He noted that the county already is faced with rising costs involved in housing its jail inmates and noted that when the courthouse is completed early in 2011, the county will have additional expenses in maintaining the courthouse as well as the courthouse annex. The annex, which now houses all county offices except the county clerk, will continue to be used by some county departments after the courthouse restoration is completed. The county tax assessor-collection and county auditor are now scheduled to remain in what will become the annex building once the courthouse reopens. County awarded grant During the meeting, the judge announced the county had been awarded a $250,000 Texas Community Development Program grant on behalf of the Woodlake-Josserand Water Supply Corporation. The money will be used to repair a $53,000 gallon stand pipe and make other repairs in the water system. During their meeting, commissioners voted to name Goodwin & Lassiter of Lufkin as the engineer for the project and to hire Raymond K. Vann and Associates as the project administrator. Vann and Associates was the only bidder for the work while Goodwin & Lassiter was one of four engineer firms that sought the contract. Credit cards approved In other business, the county approved a request from Tax Assessor-Collector Lindy Madden Warren to allow her office to begin accepting credit card payments for property taxes and auto registration fees. Warren noted that in 2009 a law went into effect requiring county tax offices to begin accepting credit card and other electronic fund transfers for the payment of property taxes. Under the contract approved Monday, the county will have to pay a fee of 2.5 percent on taxes paid electronically and a 3 percent fee for other items. The minimum fee that will be charged to the county will be $2.