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County still seeks trims on renovations





The Ellis County Commission met with the architect for the courthouse and Law Enforcement Center renovation project in a special meeting Tuesday at the courthouse.

Earlier in the day, Andy Pitts, lead architect for Treanor Architects, met with county department heads in an effort to find additional cost-savings for the project, which is budgeted for $8.5 million in construction costs.

In a special meeting earlier this month, Pitts told commissioners and department heads the project was approximately $700,000 over budget.

After Tuesday's series of meetings with department heads, Pitts told commissioners in the special meeting approximately $517,000 had been trimmed, either through scope reductions ($92,000) or in potential bid alternates ($425,000).

"We're obviously not done," Pitts told commissioners. "We're still going to attack things, look at some of the other potential changes."

Commissioner Swede Holmgren asked department heads in attendance to look for more ways to save money to reach the amount budgeted for the project.

"That's the challenge I put to you folks out there, on behalf of the two other commissioners, to take a look where we can continue to minimize this thing because there will come a point if we don't get to that dollar figure, that the commission will take it upon themselves to do the cutting," Holmgren said. "We'd really like to not do that. We'd rather that be your choice, rather than us."

Pitts also discussed with commissioners a two-phase approach to the remodeling. The jail and Law Enforcement Center would be under construction first, then the courthouse would be remodeled once the new administrative center at 718 Main was ready.

County offices in the courthouse, the sheriff's department and Hays Police Department all would relocate during remodeling. Two sites -- the former Kennedy Middle School and the Hadley Center -- have been identified as potential temporary office locations.

Pitts said in Kennedy's favor was its close proximity to the courthouse; the county would be the lone tenant, except for a few church functions; and the county would not share parking with other tenants. Pitts said negatives for relocating offices at Kennedy were no elevator; upgrades needed in technology and phone system; and some limited remodeling needed.

Pitts said positives for the Hadley Center were accessibility due to an elevator; on-site maintenance and food service; almost move-in ready; already has needed technology and phones; and already a 24/7 facility. Pitts said negatives included needing to educate the public where to go to receive county services; service areas separated by different floors; and competition for parking spots with other tenants.

Pitts told the commission his timeline was to have a pre-bid meeting July 10, bids opened July 24 and a recommendation to the commission Aug. 5. He said construction could start in August.

Commission chairwoman Barbara Wasinger was not present, and commissioner Dean Haselhorst left midway through the meeting.