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County development decisions delayed by commissioners

Wednesday, July 7, 2010 by Michelle Jimenez

Questions about who should manage the renovations to the first two floors of a newly acquired high-rise were among the issues that led Travis County commissioners to hold off on a decision about the project on Tuesday.


The county bought the 30-year-old downtown building, located at 700 Lavaca Street, last month and plans to relocate administrative offices, including those of the commissioners, over time. The building will also house the commissioners court meeting room, which will be a focal point of the project.


Commissioners said they needed more time to fine-tune the scope of services the contract would cover and to reconsider the role that the “core team,” a group comprised of half a dozen staff members, would play in the project.


“This is a big enough deal for us to take a little bit more time because we need to,” County Judge Sam Biscoe said.


Biscoe told In Fact Daily that the court decided renovations to other floors in the 15-story building would be handled in-house, but first- and second-floor renovations are expected to be more challenging because of their layout and because of the spaces they will house, such as the commissioners meeting room, which has special technology requirements.


He said the county will have to assess whether staff members have the knowledge to handle a project of that magnitude or whether the county must hire an outside expert to get the job done.


A separate item on Tuesday’s agenda, also postponed, would have given the core team the charge of studying various design, project management, and construction delivery methods and reporting back to the court with recommendations.


Biscoe identified the core team members as: Cyd Grimes, purchasing agent; Roger El Khoury, director of Facilities Management; Joe Gieselman, executive manager of Transportation and Natural Resources; Roger Jefferies, executive manager of Justice and Public Safety; Rodney Rhoades, executive manager of the Planning and Budget Office; and Susan Spataro, county auditor.


Biscoe recommended the court take up the matter again in three weeks, after commissioners have returned from their respective vacations.


Commissioner Karen Huber told In Fact Daily other details still need to be worked out, such as how the county would go about gathering public input for what will become the county’s “signature building.”


“This is Travis County’s building,” she said. “This is the county seat for the future. We would like for the public to have an opportunity to participate in the process of what the space would look like.”

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