The McLennan County justice of the peace and tax office in McGregor could move to a new, larger home as leaders look to fix another of the county’s Americans with Disabilities Act violations.

County leaders learned most of the Precinct 4 office facilities fail to meet standards, and with space already tight in the building, they are leaning toward moving to a new location.

Commissioners are considering a plan that would cost about $450,000 and move the office farther east along Highway 84.

The county has spent $573,792 addressing ADA-related work since it reached a settlement with the Department of Justice to correct more than 350 ADA violations at county facilities.

Wallace Group project manager Bruce Thacker said the firm considered several available buildings in the area, but each one presented its own roadblocks. Size, cost and lack of parking made finding an existing building to house the offices unfeasible, Thacker said.

The company determined the best option is to build new, he said. The county is weighing the option.

New proposed building

The new justice of the peace and tax office would be 2,400 square feet, but they would prefer a 3,000-square–foot building, Thacker said. The structure would be located between Oak Creek Circle and Harris Creek Road, off Highway 84, half a mile from Speegleville Road. It would house the court offices, the constable and his staff, plus room for the tax office and its operations. The site will have 35 parking spaces.

“One reason we do feel like this is the best site we found, this puts the JP office closer to the center of the precinct,” Thacker said. “It becomes more accessible, more visible to more people.”

The tax office and the justice of the peace operate out of a 1,000-square-foot building at 307 S. Madison Ave. in McGregor. The facility often has 15 jurors, plus lawyers, clerks and plaintiffs crawling over each other, Justice of the Peace Brian Richardson said.

A new building would solve two problems. It would bring the county into compliance with the ADA standards and improve security for the staff, Thacker said.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Ben Perry said he wants to visit with Randy Riggs, McLennan County tax assessor-collector, to ensure 2,400 square feet will be big enough. The new location could increase the Precinct 4 tax office’s business since it will be same distance as the downtown tax office for many residents in the Hewitt and Woodway areas, Perry said.

Land costs are at a premium, and owners are proud of their property along the Highway 84 coordinator, Richardson said. The land at the proposed location is $2 per square foot. By comparison, across the highway and half a mile down, landowners are selling property for $10 per square foot, he said.

Thacker said he will bring back an action item for the commissioners to vote on at their next meeting.

‘The more it costs’

“There’s nothing magic about construction cost,” he said. “The more you build, the more it costs.”

County Judge Scott Felton said he likes the proposed layout because the building could serve as any type of multipurpose facility if the county eventually needs to sell it.

The offices for justices of the peace in Precincts 2, 3, and 5 are also undergoing repairs as the county addresses its ADA violations. Deadlines for each repair ranged from three months to 30 months from the DOJ settlement being signed in November 2015.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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