Jail site issues expected to hike project costs
by Joe Baker
Dec 21, 2012 | 1599 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KARNES CITY – Architect Lorraine Dailey let county officials know that the price tag for the new county jail may end up being higher than anticipated due to recently uncovered issues with the site purchased by the county as the location for the new county jail.

Voters approved $7 million in bond funding for the construction of a new county jail during a recent bond election held in conjunction with the November general election. The site, which was purchased from the City of Karnes City, was the home of Ahren’s Gin many years ago and is located adjacent to the Karnes City post office.

“When we got the geotechnical investigation back from the geotechnical engineer it was found out that your soils are extremely expansive on that site,” Dailey said. “My geotechnical engineer said that it is probably one of the worst sites he has ever seen in his career as far as expansive soils.”

Dailey said the report showed that eight feet of material would need to be excavated and replaced with eight feet of select fill.

“Eight feet is double what is a normal anticipated cost for foundation preparation,” Dailey said.

Dailey said the cost of making the site ready for construction could range between $577,275 and $837,317 in addition to all the other project costs, largely due to abnormally expansive soils at the site.

These costs could bring the total project costs higher than the $7 million approved by local voters, Dailey explained.

“The question is, ‘Do we want to stay with this site?’ with the understanding that the increased cost of this site is anywhere between $577,000 and $837,000 – this is what it is costing to build on this site,” Dailey said. “Finding another site, and what will the soils be at another site? If you go and find another site, you may run into some of these same problems. We may do the geotech and it could be another really bad site. Until you do the geotech, you don’t know. Soils in this area typically are not as expansive as this particular site is.”

County Judge Barbara Shaw said one of the reasons that the site was selected was because the sheriff’s office requested a site that would be close to the county courthouse.

Commissioner Tracey Schendel said if a site was chosen out of town, it may cost as much to construct sewer and water service facilities for the jail, as it would to clean up the site in Karnes City.

Schendel made a motion to approve the Karnes County Jail construction budget and jail site development costs. Commissioner Pete Jauer seconded the mortion which passed on a 3-0 vote with Schendel, Jauer and Shaw voting in favor. (Commissioners Carl Hummel and James Rosales were not present.)

In a related agenda item, Dailey presented information about the environmental site assessment related to the site selected for the construction of a new county jail.

Dailey said two buildings on the site have “potential negative impact” but the remaining structures can be demolished and cleared from the site at this time.

Another sample is needed from under one of the buildings, Dailey said, and engineers have proposed gathering 18 additional samples from areas around the building which was once housed equipment and a gin.

“Arsenic was detected in all the soils samples but it only exceeded allowable amounts in certain samples,” Dailey said. Three samples present potential problems, she added.

“That dictates that we need to do additional testing and the proposal for the additional testing is not to exceed $18,900,” Dailey said.

Dailey requested help from the road and bridge department to clear areas for environmental testing.

Road and Bridge Administrator Jeff Wiatrek said he could arrange to do the work with county employees and equipment.

Commissioner Schendel made a motion to approve additional testing not to exceed $18,900. Commissioner Pete Jauer seconded the motion which carried on a 3-0 vote.
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