FAITH HARPER, firstname.lastname@example.org
A private consultant will evaluate Smith County's buildings and facilities to help the entity create a five-year capital improvement plan.
On Tuesday, the Smith County Commissioners Court approved a contract with Fort Worth-based Komatsu Architecture for $48,500 to perform the service.
The county reserves a penny of its tax rate into a separate fund and designates it for improving county facilities. This year, the fund generated about $1.5 million. Commissioners approved a five-year county facilities plan in 2012. The plan went through 2016.
For 2017, the Court approved a list of projects. But Komatsu Architecture will help identify repair, maintenance and other facility costs for a new five-year plan.
"We do not want to be surprised by any big ticket items down the road, like HVAC or other items," County Judge Nathaniel Moran said.
The contract did not go through the formal bidding process for professional services because it falls below the $50,000 state-mandated threshold.
This is the second facilities discussion the Commissioners have had this month.
In early May, Commissioners received an updated on the status of its 2017 projects.
Those include 17 projects for the fiscal year. Of those, five are complete, seven are in progress and four have not started.
Completed projects include fishing paying for the old Gulf State Lumber Company, which the county purchased through a lease agreement. This year, the county paid the remaining $194,010 left on the building. That building will now house vehicle storage for the Sheriff's Office and purchasing, as well as storage for other caution items. Commissioners approved another $22,000 to make the facility adequate for those purposes.
The county completed a $71,000 project to repair the chiller, the main component of an air conditioning system, in the Smith County Courthouse, and is working on a project to improve seating at the courthouse, for $41,700.
The county has earmarked $100,000 this year to complete aesthetic updates to the bathrooms in the courthouse. That includes painting, replacing the partitions and possibly some minor plumbing repairs.
In the Smith County Jail, the county replaced wiring from the central picket, where inmates are booked in, to doors, for $88,000.
"We upgraded the controls in the old part of the jail," said Facility Services Director Ed Nichols. "They had old manual switches for the doors, and for a lot of the controls, we were told that we couldn't get replacement parts."
The doors are now electronic, and can be controlled by a touch-screen.
The county plans to spend $90,000 on improving the holding tanks at the low-risk facility. That includes painting them to waterproof the walls, and repairing plumbing issues.
Another $30,000 is planned to be spent on air volume boxes, a component to the HVAC system that reads temperatures in rooms. That project has not started.
"We are looking for the ones that need to be replaced so that we can adequately control the environment the inmates are in," Nichols said, adding the county has a designated threshold the temperature must be in per the Texas Commission of Jail Standards.
Other funds were set aside for improvements at low risk, but those were absorbed by the jails maintenance crews and will not be done through the capital improvement funding, Nichols said.
The county budgeted $75,000 to replace a roof blown off a building in the Crescent Laundry Complex in storms. The complex in on Ferguson Street and holds the county's animal Shelter and county offices. The roof used to be over facility service's workshop.
Another $320,000 is reserved to replace and repair the roof on the Cotton Belt Building, known best as the location residents go to re-register their automobiles and pay property tax bills.
A storage building for tools and lawn care equipment, as well as a small shop, is planned to be built at the low-risk jail facility for $25,000, Nichols said.
The county budgeted $13,000 for Smith County Constable 1 to have a fence and gate around a parking lot to securely park their vehicles overnight.
Another $125,000 is budgeted for parking lot improvements. Projects include adding more parking around the HUB Center on Ferguson Street, where residents go to vote. Repairs to juror parking on Ferguson Street and its overflow parking on Spring Street, near the Innovation Pipeline, are also on the books.
The county completed improvements to the tax office in Noonday, which moved the facility from Bullard City Hall to Noonday, for $21,000. Improvements to the Noonday Justice of the Peace office are on hold. Judge Gary Alfred announced he does not plan on running again, and improvements will wait for the next incoming judge.
"The way it's configured now is not fit for a courtroom," Nichols said. "They have a history here, if they have a new incoming judge they will go ahead and wait that way they can pick the color choices and things like that."
Up to $50,000 is slated for the JP courtroom project.
The county is also slated $88,500 to repair water damage to the Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4 building.
The work also includes mold removal.
"The walls are cut up about 4-foot high," Nichols said. "We will get rid of the mold molecules and replace the carpet that was damaged. The tile flooring will stay. Sheetrock will be replaced, and we will add texture to the walls and replace the wood paneling area in the front area."
The county has also slated $65,000 for professional fees, including the $48,500 for the facility inspection study.