Regarding County Projects, Time Is Never on Our Side …

By Gloria Way

Does time make the heart grow fonder? Or, in the case of Chambers County projects, does time make projects millions of dollars more expensive, and more expansive than originally planned? Case in point, the new Chambers County Emergency Management building.
When the need for a new EMS building was presented to Commissioners Court a few years ago, a $5 million grant was available from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. It was estimated at that time that the new building would cost about $7.8 million. The Court agreed to fund the additional $2.8 million with monies from the Health Services Tax which is a countywide sales tax. See January 18, 2022, The Seabreeze Beacon article “Is New $7.8M EMS Building on Your County Needs Priorities List?”
Fast forward a couple of years, the project scope has grown from the original EMS building. According to a presentation to Commissioners Court last Tuesday, Economic Development Director Samantha Humphrey, told the Court “The Emergency Services Department has been created, with Ryan Holzaepfel now overseeing emergency management, emergency services, and communications. The existing Anahuac EMS Station was found to be hazardous due to mold infestations and a single family home was purchased as a temporary replacement. The EOC which was originally located within the new Justice Center was moved to this facility. Because of this, the scope of the project has increased tremendously.” Humphrey also told the Commissioners “we have looked at the building from many angles and I just don’t think that we can reduce the scope without making the building insufficient to meet the needs …” . What does this mean? The cost has increased from the original $7.8 million to a bloated $16,526,789.54.
TNP Engineers presented a PowerPoint presentation to update the Commissioners on the project with the increased project scope that includes the new offices, etc. TNP estimated the building to be about 21,000 square feet with construction costs to be $13,090,289.54. A 400-gallon fueling station, TBCD water/sewer fees, technology, audio/visual communication equipment, furniture, fixture, and equipment, material testing for construction, and owner contingency would be an additional $1.8+million, and professional fees would ad another $1.611+million. Their estimated project costs (hard cost and soft costs) is $16,526,789.54.
Several Commissioners swallowed hard after hearing that amount and told TNP that the $16 million wasn’t doable. It was mentioned that the front façade could be altered to save about $2 million. Commissioner Pct. 4 Ryan Dagley commented that he won’t consider the $16 million. “We need to get this project in the $10 million range. The $16 million is unheard of.”

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