The Webb County Commissioners Court voted on Monday to move toward finalizing the construction contract to renovate the former downtown H-E-B building and convert it into the new Sheriff’s Office headquarters.

The construction cost, considering several savings mechanisms, should be around $5.7 million, reported Rick Solis, architect at Able City. The county purchased the building for $4,125,000 in November 2018 and paid $395,000 for design and project oversight.

Webb County Judge Tano Tijerina noted that the county’s construction budget is $4.4 million, which is money the county borrowed in 2019. So they’ll have to come up with nearly $1.3 million to finish the project under this plan.

“The original intent of this building was to be kind of open cubicle, and then when we went to offices, it really blew our budget,” said Commissioner John Galo.

The contractors, Summit Building & Design, originally submitted a base bid for construction that was much higher — $6.7 million.

At the meeting Monday, Solis broke down several ways that they were able to bring the cost down, including savings in electrical costs and plumbing, reducing ceiling heights and forgoing the emergency management conference room they had planned for the second floor.

After meeting with Emergency Management Coordinator Steve Landin, they concluded that they would be better off pursuing that aspect of the project through federal grants.

The architects are also removing the exterior finishes they had designed for the building and will just repaint it instead.

“Not something we really wanted to do, but I think we can use some paint and really dress up the building and make it look nicer than it currently looks right now,” Solis said.

Some other cost saving measures they had floated were installing vinyl floors instead of porcelain tile and removing the soundproofing from some of the interior doors. But the Sheriff’s Office argued that porcelain will be easier to maintain and that soundproofing is necessary, especially for suspect and witness rooms, Solis said. Those two parts of the project cost $114,000, he reported.

Galo argued that porcelain inevitably cracks, and that they’ll also need to buy lots of extra tile so that it matches when they need to replace it. Tijerina recommended they go with epoxy flooring instead.

The judge also said that the entire building needs to covered by backup generators, but that this is a cost they can cover through CARES Act funding to the county. This will cost about $287,000, Solis said.

The court voted to approve their negotiations with Summit Building & Design. Soon they’ll be able to finalize the contract and proceed with construction.

Julia Wallace may be reached at 956-728-2543 or [email protected]

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