Commissioners approve project to refurbish Annex Building

Although the metal grills on the side of the Kaufman County Annex Building have drawn the ire of Kaufman County Judge Hal Richards , he and the commissioners are unwilling to pay the sizable price to have them removed.

After discussing the issue at previous meetings of the Kaufman County Commissioners Court, the commissioners and County Judge Hal Richards approved a project to renovate the building.

The $54,000 project will include the replacement of the damaged glass windows around the front of the building facing the square and the repainting of the exterior of the entire building which will also include development services and the public defender's office.

The $54,000 was the cheapest of the project options detailed to the commissioners by Kaufman County Purchasing Agent Raylan Smith and Kaufman County Facility Director Bobby Bridges based on offers from general contractors. Other project options included an $85,000 budget that would have included the renovation of damaged stucco on the upper portion of the building and a $180,000 option that would have removed the marble slabs on the front of the building as well as the metal grills along the side, the latter of which have drawn the ire of Judge Richards.

"I've never actually seen a building with those grills on there," Richards said with disdain. "I don't think it's particularly appealing."

However, when the court was informed of the cost associated with removing the grills and installing new stucco in their place, they agreed that the price wasn't worth the gain.

"I don't know that it's worth going through all of this expense," Richards said.

"The problem is, once you take the grills down you don't know what damage is going to be behind there," Smith explained. "So there's probably going to be some exterior work that would have to be done."

Precinct 4 commissioner Ken Cates agreed that putting over $175,000 in a building that may be repurposed at a later date might not be the wisest course of action.

"I think there's some discussion that in the future we might be funding some courthouse renovations and that may or may not affect the future of this building as county property," Cates said. "So I don't think I'm feeling that good about putting $178,000 into this building."

"Me either," Richards agreed. "We obviously need to replace the glass. It's broken. It's fogged. Raylan said that if we replace that with tempered safety glass that it should be pretty robust as far as chipping."

While the commissioners considered going ahead and removing the marble slabs along the front of the building as well, in the end they decided to forgo that portion of the project until the repainting is completed and the new glass is installed.

"The other thing that was part of this whole discussion is the marble that's stuck on there," Richards said. "It's faded and not in very good shape, but we haven't really thought of a solution other than taking it off and putting stucco there. And so, I kind of thought why not just do the painting, leave the marble there, and then see how we feel about it after that? If we still decided that we want to take that marble off, we could budget for that. Although that in itself is a little risky; who knows that that brick looks like under there?"

"Any time you start tearing stuff apart and remodeling, you don't know what you're going to find," Precinct 1 commissioner Mike Hunt said. "So I think maybe the conservative deal right now is probably the best option."

The $54,000 will be covered by a line item in the budget designated for building renovations. However, Bridges noted that there are some cracks in the stucco portion of the building that could potentially warrant repairs, which would increase the overall cost of the project.

Though it isn't specifically included in the passed plan, Richards also expressed his desire to incorporate a more professional sign that includes the county seal at the front of the building after it has been repainted and refurbished.

The commissioners also approved three separate projects in tandem with TxDot for various road improvements around the county; the FM 148 bypass project, a project that addresses two dangerous intersections off of SH 243, and the SH 205 project. John Polster from Innovative Transportation Solutions Inc. went through all three projects with the court and suggested that they approve them. All of the costs for Kaufman County associated with the projects are being paid for through the county's bond program.

At $258,390.10, The FM 148 Bypass project is the cheapest of the three. The price point is actually just 10 percent of the overall cost of the project, the majority of which is being paid for by the federal and state governments. However, TxDot initially pushed for the local government to cover the entirety of the project cost until Polster stepped in and negotiated a much more favorable deal for the county.

"Well 10 percent is better than 100 percent," Richards quipped.

Regarding the timetable for the project, Polster said, "They'll probably start the right of wary acquisition in about three months. They usually take 12 months to get their right of way acquired. So I'd say somewhere around this time next year they should have the right of way completed. Then they move into utilities and the utilities take about 9 to 12 months depending on how many are out there. Since this is a new alignment, it would probably be closer to 9 than 12. So that puts it some time in the 2021 timeframe to be what they call 'ready to let.'"

The county is also just paying for 10 percent of the SH 205 project, which has a price point of $934.255.40. Both this and the FM 148 project prices are fixed; even if the project goes over the projected amount, the county will not be required to make up the difference. The SH 205 project will also be ready to let in 2021.

The SH 243 project regarding the intersections at FM 2515 and 2727, unlike the other two projects, is being paid fully by local government putting it at a $805,850 cost for Kaufman County. The project will also begin much more quickly; construction at both intersections is slated to begin by the end of the summer. This project is in response to the number of wrecks that have occurred over the years at both intersections and will include more visible warning signage and barriers.

During the June 12 meeting, the commissioners also accepted the commissioners court meeting minutes for May 29, May 30, June 4, June 5 and June 6, accepted the star transit ridership reports for May 2019 and their third quarter reports, accepted the development services quarterly report for January through March, approved the purchase of a Kubota MS-111 HDC for $49,900 for Precinct 3, approved the purchase of a 2020 Peterbilt Model 348 for $123,726.62 from Rush Truck Center using a buyboard contract for Precinct 2, accepted the auditor's monthly report for May, and approved payroll and benefits, line item transfers and claims for payment.

The court also re-approved a preliminary plat for Windmill Farms phase 4D-2 after the project hadn't gotten signed off on by the utility district as required previously. Finally, the commissioners entered into budget workshop to begin the preliminary stages of the formation of the FY 2019-2020 budget.

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