Budget for Hays County Jail renovation on schedule but over budget

Hays County Jail (KXAN Photo)
Hays County Jail (KXAN Photo)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) – The plan to renovate the Hays County Jail and upgrade other public safety facilities is proving to be more costly than expected. The project is currently $7 million over budget.

“I don’t believe it was anybody’s intent to go over the amount that the voters approved,” said Hays County Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe.

At a Hays County Commissioners meeting in October, representatives from Turner Construction claim the busy hurricane season is part of the problem with the project being over budget.

“Unfortunately we’ve had three hurricanes since we were last here,” said vice president of Turner Construction Mike Kaiman, adding there is a lack of builders who can take on the jail expansion project. “There are a lot of risks in the market in the future.”

Hays County residents are starting to speak out hoping county leaders will take a stand before taxpayer money is spent. “That is a significant overage, we’re talking about taxpayer money and they should not be one dollar over budget,” said Cristin Hearne.

Hearne says she didn’t vote for the bond but since it passed she says it’s necessary to stay within budget because it impacts everyone who lives in Hays County. “This is our money, they are taking out bonds against our property and if we say it is okay for this bond or this budget to go over then what about the next large expenditure,” she said.

Kaiman presented to commissioners some possible alternatives to help bring down the cost such changing construction materials or postponing the construction of the training building and plan to build at a later date. However, the Hays County Sheriff’s Office and Building Committee did not recommend the proposed alternates.

“Anything over what the voters approved is unacceptable to me, there’s no way we are going to spend more money than the voters approved. We also are not going to build something that is different from what the voters approved either,” said Hays County Commissioner Lon Shell. “It’s over budget. I’m afraid of this way of presenting these alternates is putting the risk on the taxpayer and not on the contractor.”

Commissioners are now tasked with deciding if the Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) Proposal is acceptable. If commissioners do not approve of the proposal, the county can spend 90 days looking to see if there are other options. After 90 days if the court still deems it unacceptable, the Turner agreement will be terminated.

Turner has asked to have an extension and be allowed to resubmit the GMP. The Court has not considered that at this time, nor have they asked Turner to revisit the GMP.

Commissioners say the project is still on schedule and should be complete by 2020. Commissioners will be meeting with Turner Construction again next Tuesday. According to the November 7 Commissioners Court agenda, commissioners will have the option to accept Turner’s proposal, declare it unacceptable, or allow Turner to withdraw the GMP proposal and deliver it at a later date.

On KXAN News on the CW Austin at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., Lauren Lanmon explains the issues the builder is facing.

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