Happy April! As you may know, April is National County Government Month, and this year’s theme is “Healthy Counties, Healthy Families.” Many counties are preparing for different activities throughout the month to help raise awareness of county government services and functions. Our county will host a County Appreciation Luncheon and Service Awards Ceremony for our employees. We have also implemented an “Above and Beyond Award” which is given to certain individuals, elected by their peers, who have demonstrated performances or services that deserve special recognition. Our luncheon and awards ceremony is just one small way to thank our employees and let them know how much they are appreciated.
I wanted to expand just a little on a short story that was featured in the February issue of County Progress titled “Success Snapshot – Hays County Government Center Open for Business.” This is a project that I had the honor and pleasure of leading. Although this process was very stressful at times, this was a facility that was very much needed. We had outgrown our current facilities, where our employees had been working in very inadequate and unsafe surroundings; plus, it was not efficient for our residents and officials doing business with our county.
I recall discussing the need for a new facility shortly after I came into office in 1997, and here we are today, 15 years later. One of the biggest factors for the delay of our new Government Center was the cost. One of the early estimates that came in was $129 million. The county had appointed a building committee, which I oversaw, and we knew we could not take such a large number before the commissioners court, nor did we want to. The county had hired an engineering firm, working through their architectural representative, to help us through this extensive process which included a needs assessment, conceptual design, engineering services, budgets and much more; we soon realized that although we had very qualified and committed individuals serving on the building committee, we did not have the expertise needed for such a large endeavor and project.
The county eventually hired a program/project manager, and it was great knowing that we finally had someone who was truly acting on our behalf and looking out for the county’s best interests. When we hired our program manager, our project had grown way over budget and was getting behind on the schedule we had set. By having a program/project manager, they were able to come in and provide an independent review and management of the project to bring it back on schedule and within budget. They were able to save the county over $50 million. The project was a design/build, and we had a great team in place that was very conscientious about our needs and budgets. By the way, we did dismiss the initial engineering firm.
I share this with you to hopefully help you avoid what our county went through. Anyone who may be considering the construction of a new, large government center such as our 232,000-square-foot facility or even a smaller precinct building, please consider the option of hiring a program/project manager up-front. This decision could help save you lots of money, not to mention many unnecessary headaches and lawsuits. I know we wish we had hired one up-front!
Well, primaries appear to be set for May 29…I want to wish everyone up for re-election the very best. Also, the 83rd Annual West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association Conference is April 24-27 in Ector County – Odessa. Hope to see you there!