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Architect tells county to trim more





The architect for the renovation project at the courthouse, jail and law enforcement center told the Ellis County Commission on Tuesday afternoon approximately $700,000 needs to be trimmed to get the design down to the $8.5 million budgeted.

Commissioners will meet with department heads and the architect later this month in an effort to reduce the scope of the project. Bid alternates, or add-ons, also will be looked at to get the project on budget.

Andy Pitts, principal architect for Treanor Architects, said it’s not unusual to make necessary design changes.

“I think it was a very productive day,” Pitts said after meeting with county officials and Ellis County Commission Chairwoman Barbara Wasinger at the courthouse. “It’s always hard to have these discussions. Everybody wants to be able to come in and say, ‘We have extra money, we’re on budget, we have to move forward.’

“Most of our projects don’t work that way. Our wants and our needs are always greater than our budgets. And so, we have to work through priorities.”

Initially, the plan was to work on the renovations in phases. At the courthouse, for instance, it would be one floor at a time. At Tuesday’s meeting, however, Pitts explained how it would be advantageous to move offices during most of the construction activity, and relocate them to either the former Kennedy Middle School or the Hadley Center. Pitts estimated courthouse offices could be at a different location for eight to 10 months.

“As discussions went on, it became the opportunity to potentially to move everybody out to a different location,” Pitts said. “As we looked at that, it’s not only a savings of time, which turns into money ... but it’s going to save headaches for the people who are going to have to work here on a daily basis, (who would have to) listen to construction activity.”

Pitts estimated the entire project would take approximately a year to finish. If bids are received by the end of July, construction could begin in August. That would put the project being completed in August 2015.

The project has its own set of challenges, Pitts said.

“More complex, because of the renovation between two buildings, (and) one being an older, historic building,” he said. “The other being a law enforcement building we’re having to retain the security level back in the new construction.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s definitely on the higher end of complexity.”

County commissioners Dean Haselhorst and Swede Holmgren were not present. Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund said he put out notice for a special meeting in case there was a quorum of commissioners present. No action was to be taken in the meeting, so commissioners could attend if able.