Public Safety bond projects delayed

Though still within the overall budgetary parameters of the public safety bonds that Hays County voters approved in 2016, expansion at the Hays County Jail on Uhland Road in San Marcos as well as the construction of the Public Safety Building on Wonder World Drive, also in San Marcos, required change work orders, which the Commissioners Court passed with unanimous votes Oct. 22.

According to Codi M. Newsom of ECM International, who gave an update to commissioners and County Judge Ruben Becerra, progress on the jail addition has been delayed for about five months due to a combination of factors, and that slowdown “trickled down” to the other portions of the project like the training building and renovation of the existing jail facility.

One of the factors affecting the pace of construction was the necessity of moving existing utility lines. While Grande Communications and San Marcos Electric Utility moved their lines ahead of a deadline, Spectrum did not. “Spectrum didn’t move their lines until the end of July 2018,” so construction was not able to proceed.” She added that while waiting on Spectrum, the contractors rescheduled other work.

While the existence of the utility lines was known, Newsom said workers also encountered sewer lines that they did not know were there.

Unusually heavy rainfall in the late spring and early fall of 2018 also factored into the delay, she said.

Meanwhile, construction on the public safety building, which will contain the Emergency Operations Center, has been delayed for about 11 months and that, Newsom said, was largely due to permitting issues. Between the time the bonds were approved and the beginning of construction early this year, she said the city of San Marcos adopted new ordinances that not only address flooding at specific sites but also the impact that flooding could have on areas downstream. That also added to the delay.

That site, which lies in a flood plain, was also impacted by drainage issues and the fact that work begin under existing FEMA maps which have since been updated. The older, “effective” FEMA maps show the site just inside the 100-year flood zone, which has a 0.2 percent annual chance to flood areas, meaning that there is a 1 percent annual chance of flooding with an average depth of less than one foot or with drainage areas of less than one square mile. The new maps, scheduled to be made effective early next year, show the site surrounded by a 100-year floodway and not far from the 500-year flood line.

Both the building and the parking lot have been built up four feet, and the road leading into the site will also be built up. When Becerra questioned the accessibility of the EOC when flooding is occurring, Newsom responded that the city of San Marcos was looking at elevating Old Stagecoach Trail as it approaches the site.

However, Newsom noted, the fleet maintenance building at the Uhland Road site has been operational and occupied since July of 2018. It’s now estimated that the jail addition will be substantially complete March 24 of next year and ready for occupancy on April 23, 2020. The training building is expected to be substantially complete by May 31, 2020, and ready for occupancy June 30, 2020.

The jail renovation, meanwhile, is expected to be substantially complete on Aug. 4, 2020 and ready for occupancy on Sept. 3 of next year; while the Public Safety Building’s substantial completion date is July 25, 2020 and its ready for occupancy date is Aug. 24, 2020.

Concerning the change work orders, Newsom said market uncertainties played into rising costs, as did tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsebe noted that the work change orders don’t mean the project has gone over budget. “It’s all in the bond that was approved,” she said. “Voters voted to move forward with this bond amount and we’re staying within this amount.”

San Antonio-based Turner Construction is the contractor for the work.

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