Liberty County commissioners are looking at ways to kill two birds with one stone, as the saying goes, with construction of the new law enforcement center on SH 146, located on a 39-acre tract just north of North Main Baptist Church in Liberty.
The law enforcement center will include a new headquarters in the main building for the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and the Liberty County Office of Emergency Management, and offices in the annex for the Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace and Constable, Texas game wardens, Texas Department of Public Safety personnel and the Texas Rangers.
Architect Kenny Burns explained to commissioners at their March 9 meeting that construction of the law enforcement center will involve the removal of about 15,000 cubic yards of dirt. He proposed two options – spreading the dirt on the back of the property, to create a pad for a future jail, or relocating the dirt to SH 105 in Moss Hill where ESD No. 7 plans to build a new fire station in the next couple of years.
Burns said that ESD No. 7 is concerned that the cost of fill dirt to build a pad for the future fire station could prove too costly.
“I see this as a win-win for something else in the county. They (ESD No. 7) save if we can use the county trucks to haul this dirt to this other county site. Maybe the site they were donated can be made to work for ESD No. 7 if they don’t have to spend $100,000 in dirt. They need about half of what we would have to spread around the back of this property,” Burns said. “We could help ESD No. 7 and ourselves in the process.”
Commissioners appeared to be in agreement but have not yet committed to providing the dirt for ESD No. 7. They first plan to assess how much it will cost to use County dump trucks to haul the dirt to the other site in Moss Hill, about 10-12 miles away.
Burns was in commissioners court to present information on the guaranteed maximum price from White Construction for the new law enforcement center. The price tag is $18.896 million with a contingency fund of $190,000 factored in to pay for issues that might arise. With soft costs for design and architecture, furnishings and equipment, the amount budgeted for the project is $25 million. Funding comes from certificates of obligation that commissioners approved in June 2020.
“We want [the contingency fund] because you never know what you are going to come up against,” Burns said.
Burns explained how he and the contractor have created some cost savings by making minor changes to the brands of materials and by removing items that are unnecessary, such as drywall in the ceiling of an exterior porch.
At Burns’ suggestion, commissioners agreed to provide a notice to proceed to White Construction ahead of the proposed April 1 official groundbreaking.
“We are shooting for an April 1 groundbreaking. If we could give them a notice to proceed by March 17, then they can roll and stay right on schedule,” Burns said.
Burns brought attention to another concern, this one related to a radio tower that will be on the property. Originally it was slated to be located further away from the sheriff’s office headquarters, but the architect now plans to move it closer in order to create more space for a future jail. Burns said the move actually saves the county the cost of some of the conduit lines that will be needed to run communication lines and utilities.