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Fannin County Commissioners Court moves forward with justice center construction, approves Change Order #001 to remove asbestos
By Allen Rich
Feb 28, 2024
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Fannin County, Texas -- All five members of Fannin County Commissioners Court were present for a regular meeting of Fannin County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, February 27, 2024. The meeting opened with an invocation by Fannin County Judge Newt Cunningham and pledges were led by Sgt. Darin Cook of Bonham VFW Post 4852.

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Judge Cunningham recognized Erik Simien in attendance. Simien is Director of Constituent Outreach for US Representative Pat Fallon.

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In public forum, Janie Bellows said she is pleased with progress at justice center.

District Judge Laurie Blake expressed support for the change order and stated that the current facility (South Annex) is unacceptable and not in compliance. Judge Blake urged the court to move forward with the justice center project.

Blake acknowledged the cost, but noted, "We are paying for the safety of our community."

Sgt. Cook thanked the court for participating in a recent fundraiser to benefit Fannin County Family Crisis Center that was hosted by VFW Post 4852.

Jason Walker told the court that he believes last week's regular meeting deviated from rules for public forum.

Melanie Grammar reminded residents that an initiative to build a justice center is not a new conversation; it dates back at least as far as 2016. Ms. Grammar urged the community to early vote.

Mitchell Smith also reminded residents to vote.

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Routine items

Fannin County Commissioners Court approved bills totaling $235,173.33.

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Bonham Fire Chief Scott Ridling presented the EMS monthly report for January 2024.

Chief Ridling reported a busy month, with 418 calls. The department is one employee short and still waiting on a long-awaited delivery of an ambulance. Ridling recently met with representatives of the City of Leonard regarding the ambulance location.

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Report of monies received by the Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 office for January 2024; $612.00.

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Discussion items

In a lengthy discussion regarding the county's Recreational Vehicle Park Regulations, Dusty Compton, owner of Freedom RV, asked for a clarification of the goals of the regulations.

"It is basically to make certain that our taxpayers are taken care of, as well as public safety," answered Judge Cunningham, stressing the need for good development with sufficient assets and room for emergency vehicles to turn around.

"I've visited a lot of parks but almost none would meet these standards," Mr. Compton remarked. "The more expensive the park is, the less money they would have to spend on an RV."

Compton questioned whether an RV park could be profitable while also being compliant with Fannin County regulations.

"They can try surrounding counties that don't insist on proper development," Cunningham offered.

Compton also asked how the county conceived of the need for 24-foot paved roads in RV parks.

Cunningham said it came from studying other RV parks and subdivisions.

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Discussion, consideration and action items

Fannin County Commissioners Court approved releasing the following Securities with Legend Bank:

Cusip#    Description                     Pledged Par          Market Value

31418AFZ6 FNMA #MA1083       $2,456,696.00          $228,464.54

31418ANF1 FNMA #MA1289       $2,500,000.00          $304,485.99

3494605N1 Fort Worth Tx Isd         $220,000.00           $223,539.07

666495DF0 Northlake Tx                 $440,000.00          $378,441.14

3128MMV26 FHLMC #G18632        $1,500,000.00       $248,527.04

3140J5MF3 FNMA #BM1257            $2,545,000.00      $587,005.58

31418CRA4 FNMA #MA3180           $3,000,000.00        $480,017.87

3140JXR26 FNMA CRA #BO3204    $1,835,453.00     $1,255,715.66

3132D53Z3 FR #SB8016                  $2,000,000.00       $371,537.09

106055KQ8 Brazoria Co Mud 17      $840,000.00          $817,978.98

721573EK5 Pilot Knob Tx Mud 3       $170,000.00          $138,041.29

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Fannin County Commissioners Court approved enrolling Fannin County employees into Cybersecurity Training through the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) per Texas Government Code 2054.5191 and appoint Dustin Morrow as program administrator

This year, TAC is charging $5 per employee; the estimated annual cost to the county is $550 to $600.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court approved an Interlocal Agreement between Fannin County and the City of Dodd City regarding regulation within the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) of Dodd City.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court approved an Interlocal Agreement with the City of Leonard for road maintenance.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court approved an Interlocal Agreement with the City of Trenton for road maintenance.

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Commissioners court approved renting a CX60C mini excavator for one month from Double J Equipment Repair at a cost of $3,600.00 for Precinct 1 to be paid from 210-621-4600, Equipment Rental/Lease.

The mini excavator will be used to clean out culverts that are difficult to access with a backhoe.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court approved and adopted the Fannin County Fraud, Waste and Abuse Policy.

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By a 4-1 vote, Fannin County Commissioners Court approved moving forward with construction of the justice center and approved potential Change Order #001 from Crossland Construction for abatement of concealed mastic at the Fannin County Justice Center at a cost of $42,234.00.

Pct. 1 Commissioner Dale McQueen, Pct. 3 Commissioner Jerry Magness and Pct. 4 Commissioner Doug Kopf, along with Judge Cunningham, voted in favor of the agenda item. Pct. 2 Commissioner A.J. Self cast the opposing vote.

Commissioner Self repeated his stance that all asbestos should have been removed before money for the justice center was removed from escrow.

Most of the asbestos in the building was abated, with the exception of tiles underneath carpet in a business that was operating in a section of the building when the original inspection was made. In addition, the county didn't plan on using that space initially.

"We are way outside having a right to sue the seller," Judge Cunningham stated. "We were aware there was asbestos in the building and we accepted it. We got a bargain for what will be a justice center that will serve the county for years to come."

When the county originally studied options for a justice center, the cost to construct a new building was estimated to be $21-$26 million. The decision was made to pursue the cheaper option of renovating a building. The original concept was the restore 48,000 square feet at an estimated cost of $9-$16 million. Under this concept, the county would occupy half of the building and lease the remainder.

The current plan is to restore 85,000 square feet.

"In a matter of weeks, we will have a final number," Cunningham said of the cost of the project, noting that he believes the county has approximately $14 million to commit to the justice center project, including $3 million in ARP funds that are earmarked for projects such as restorations.

"The first estimate was for $16 million...I told them that wouldn't work," Cunningham remarked.

The Change Order is to remove asbestos at a cost of $42,234.00.

Although there is the very real possibility that a competitive bidding process could reduce the cost of asbestos abatement significantly, it must be balanced with the impact of delaying a construction project of this scale for approximately two months at a time when construction inflation is approaching 30%.

Fannin County Auditor Alisha Whipple said the bidding process would require a minimum of 45 days.

In last week's regular meeting, Cunningham said he preferred to stick with Crossland's subcontractor to abate the asbestos in order to be certain the construction manager at risk (CMAR) will be responsible.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court accepted a bid regarding District Court Security Services for an armed officer at $27/hour. 

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Open discussion items

(Open discussion items will be passed on unless discussion requested by a member of the Court or a Citizen.)

In a brief discussion regarding plans for the total solar eclipse that Fannin County will experience on April 8, Cunningham said the county is considering letting some employees off work due to the expected influx of visitors, while making certain that emergency services will be available.

"Let's plan for the worst and hope for the best," the county judge suggested.

Commissioners court passed on the need for executive sessions.