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Mark Richardson is a multimedia journalist, editor and writer who has worked in digital, print and broadcast media for three decades. He is a nationally recognized editor and reporter who has covered government, politics and the environment. A journalism graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, he was recently awarded a Foundation for Investigative Journalism grant and has three Associated Press Managing Editors awards for excellence in reporting.
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Travis County OKs hiring consultant
Travis County Commissioners approved hiring an impartial consultant Friday to verify if the cost estimate for the planned Ronald Earle Building is accurate or needs to be rebid. The building, at 416 West 11th St., will house the district attorney’s staff. The county hired a contractor, Flintco, as a construction manager, and that firm came back with an estimate of $45 million, quite a bit above the $34.5 million the county originally budgeted. County staff is divided over what to do. Purchasing Agent Cyd Grimes thinks the county needs to increase the budget, but Facilities Manager Roger El Khoury wants to terminate the contractor and rebid the project. Both approaches will probably cost the county extra time and money, but without a reliable cost estimate, it’s hard to know how much. Commissioners, over the strenuous objections of Commissioner Ron Davis, voted 4-1 to hire a consultant to look at the plans for the building and develop a qualified estimate. “I think we may be setting a precedent here,” Davis said, “meaning if someone (in the future) is not comfortable with whatever we used as far as our cost estimate figures, then they can come in and we’ll have to do this all over again.” The study will take about three to four weeks once a firm is hired and will cost up to $50,000, according to staff.