County may relocate justice center

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Rather than spend $1 million to move power transmission lines in order to build the county’s new justice center, why not simply move the justice center?

That was the reasoning of Commissioner Bobby Rinn while discussing various construction issues Monday morning during the regular meeting of the Austin County Commissioners Court. Meeting with just barely a quorum (commissioners Chip Reed and Mark Lamp were at a conference), the commissioners talked about the cost of moving the giant transmission lines so the center could be built next to the jail and sheriff’s office versus building it on another site and building a sally port for the transportation of inmates.

“I’m not trying to stop the project, I’m just looking for the most economic site,” Rinn said.

County Judge Tim Lapham and Commissioner Randy Reichardt both agreed that it made economic sense to build a sally port rather than move the lines. Neither Rinn nor the others had a suggestion as to where the justice center should go but they were open to considering ideas.

“I’ve never been happy with all of this moving of transmission lines,” Lapham said.

The original plan would have had a connection between the justice center and jail for the movement of inmates to court and back. A sally port is a garage that a vehicle would drive into so the outer door could be closed before an inner door is opened.

The discussion was part of a broader discussion about three major construction projects the county is undertaking – the justice center, refurbishing the sheriff’s office and jail, and building a new EMS station in Sealy. The discussions were led by architect Kenny Burns of Burns Architecture. Burns said that moving the justice center to another location would not be a problem at this juncture of planning. He agreed that a sally port would be less expensive than moving transmission lines.

Among the things Burns told the commissioners is that the proposed roof on the sheriff’s office/jail building will have to be lowered to accommodate broadcast towers. He said Sheriff Jack Brandes would also like to increase the size of the visitor’s area. He said the project probably will not break ground until the first of next year because of the timing of the holidays and hunting season in the fall.

“If you’re in the construction business, you want to go hunting,” he said.

Burns said demolition of the older portion of the jail to be remodeled will begin soon.

On the discussion of the EMS station, Burns said adjustments had to be made to the plans to accommodate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That will mean changes in size and access. He presented new plans to EMS Director Ron Dille. Lapham questioned why the building had to be ADA compliant when it has no public access spaces. Burns said it was the law because the building must be built for any future uses it may have.

Among other action at the meeting, commissioners:

Agreed to sell property off FM 1456 for $9,860;

Agreed to subdivide 4.36 acres on Pindula Road;

Purchased a pickup truck for Precinct 4;

Received the annexation request for 45.11 acres into the City of Sealy off FM 3013;

Accepted the Texas Commission on Jail Standards inspection report on the county jail, which passed; and

Entered into a clinical affiliation agreement between Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service and the Austin County EMS.

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