A senior Travis County official chided commissioners on Tuesday for what she described as continued, and costly, delays in efforts to build a new $340 million civil courthouse.
“This is y’all’s project. We are working as hard as we can trying to move this forward. You talk about delays. These are the kind of delays that cost us money,” purchasing agent Cyd Grimes told commissioners Tuesday.
Delays can mean extra staff time on the project and higher construction costs and interest rates down the line, Grimes said.
Grimes was presenting a $3 million contract to pay an outside company that would head the next phases of the courthouse project when Commissioner Margaret Gómez, who had asked to delay a vote on the contract last week, said the contract included unnecessary work. Gómez questioned expenditures such as $312,000 for a “public education and education initiative plan,” and about $132,000 for a pair of reports.
“It doesn’t need to be a PR job. It needs to get some facts together for a bond ballot and we have done that before,” Gómez said.
Commissioners ultimately agreed to another week delay to answer Gómez’s questions.
The county has been considering building a new courthouse since 2004 to replace the 82-year-old Heman Marion Sweatt courthouse. Commissioners in May hired URS Corp. to be the multi-year effort’s project manager. The county has paid URS $50,000 so far and spent more than $2 million on other consultants.
“We’re not making a whole lot of progress, and, to URS, I apologize. This is democracy at work, specifically county democracy, and it seems to take a little more time,” County Judge Sam Biscoe said.