Purchase photos

Project now closer to $8.5M budget





When Andy Pitts of Treanor Architects met with the Ellis County Commission in April, there was approximately $700,000 still needing trimmed from the budget for renovations and construction at the Ellis County Courthouse, jail and Law Enforcement Center.

In Tuesday's special meeting at the courthouse, the difference was down to approximately $300,000 for the project. The budget is $8.5 million.

"As long as we keep going down," Ellis County Commission Chairwoman Barbara Wasinger said after the meeting. "I believe we can shave the rest of the dollars off, in different places."

Pitts met with department heads earlier in the day before giving his presentation.

"I'm really pleased with staff and the elected officials," Wasinger said. "We're all working toward the same goal -- come in under budget."

Commissioners also need to decide soon the location for temporary office space during construction. Originally, commissioners considered the former Kennedy Middle School building, along with the Hadley Center. The Kennedy building no longer is an option, but the building which housed the former Hays Pathology Laboratory on 13th Street has become a possible alternative.

Bids for the project could be opened as soon as mid-August. Construction would be in phases, with work on the jail and Law Enforcement Center first, then the courthouse.

"Within the next 60 to 90 days, we're going to have to have the place figured out. ... And in September or so, the sheriff's office is out. So that can be phased a little bit -- not a complete move-over," Pitts said. "The balance of (the courthouse) wouldn't need to occur until the county administration building is complete. That's when the courts would begin to move out.

"We're to the point where we're going to need to make some decisions on what our next step is."

Wasinger said temporary office space would be on the agenda at Monday's regular commission meeting.

Commissioners Dean Haselhorst and Swede Holmgren were not present at Tuesday's informational meeting.