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Llano County prepares for government building construction, renovation

Llano County Tax Assessor's Office

The third floor of the Llano County Tax Assessor's Office has been out of use since 2005. The Llano County Commissioners Court moved to renovate the third floor to maximize the resources available to the county. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Llano County Commissioners Court approved the hiring of an engineering firm on Monday, June 27, kicking off the construction of five new government buildings and the renovation of the tax assessor’s office. Riley Mountain Engineering will oversee the projects.

The county is building a new criminal justice facility, a new tax collector’s annex, and three EMS buildings as well as renovating the third floor of the tax assessor’s office, which has been out of use since 2005.

The court doesn’t have the total cost on the projects at this time.

“Anything that we’re going to do of this magnitude is going to be in phases,” said Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham during the Commissioners Court meeting. “But we’re selling ourselves short if we don’t hire somebody to come in at the onset to help us develop a plan for the long term.”

According to Cunningham, a new criminal justice building is essential. As of now, the current courtroom at the Llano County Sheriff’s Office services two district courts, the county court, the family court, and the court of the attorney general. A new criminal justice building would be located on county property near the Sheriff’s Office. 

The building would also provide an office for the district attorney, district clerk, and public defender.

“It’s working,” Cunningham said of the current courtroom setup. “But we can be more efficient and more functional if we’ve got two courtrooms going at the same time.”

The EMS buildings will be strategically located across the county for better response times. The plan calls for building an EMS bay in Kingsland, the fastest-growing portion of Llano County. As it stands, EMS staff are staying in temporary buildings in some cases. Certain stations only have room for a single ambulance.

The fifth building in question would be a tax collector’s office at the East Llano County Annex near the intersection of RR 1431 and Texas 29.

The tax assessor’s office’s third floor was used as a jail until 2005 and for storage since then. Extensive renovations will be necessary to convert the space into usable offices. According to Cunningham, the third floor could easily serve as a new Commissioners Court or new tax assessor’s offices.

“We need to get maximum use out of this building, which we are not doing at this time,” he said.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Peter Jones expressed concerns over the potential costs of these projects, stating he had heard estimates of $400 per square-foot for a new fire station in Horseshoe Bay. A new criminal justice building estimated at 10,000 square-feet could potentially come out to $4 million.

John Fowler, president of Riley Mountain Engineering, addressed Jones’ concerns.

“We’re not trying to parachute in here as a bunch of experts and make decisions,” he said. “The county makes decisions. It’s our responsibility to get the information together and get it to you in a timely manner so that you can make the decision to go forward.”

Riley Mountain Engineering will be the project coordinator representing Llano County to potential contractors and designers that will actually do the construction and renovations.

Funding for the projects will come from tax notes and federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. As of now, commissioners have allocated $400,000 to renovate the tax assessor’s office and $2.7 million toward the other buildings.

IN OTHER BUSINESS

The Commissioners Court on Tuesday:

  • recognized the retirement of Cindy Ware, who worked for the Llano County Elections Office for 10½ years and oversaw 34 elections. Later that day, the Llano County Elections Committee hired Andrea Wilson as the new election administrator for Llano County.
  • declared July First Responders Month;
  • approved $24,320.98 for new equipment for the Soil and Water Conservation District;
  • and accepted a $20,000 donation from the White family to the Llano County Sheriff’s Office for eight ballistic shields and training on using them.

dakota@thepicayune.com