McLennan County commissioners have allocated $159,500 to address Americans with Disabilities Act violations at three justice of the peace offices.
Work could begin soon, and the justice of the peace Precinct 3 office in West could temporarily close during the work.
Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace David W. Pareya said he’s meeting soon with the architect and other officials to discuss the timeline of improvements to the building. Pareya said he could temporarily hold court in Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace James E. Lee Jr.’s courtroom to help keep operations moving forward.
The renovations to the justice of the peace offices in Precincts 2, 3 and 5 are part of the county’s settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, which includes more than 350 ADA violations in county-owned buildings identified in 2011.
Mazanec Construction Co. was the sole bidder for the justice of the peace project.
County leaders are also looking for a new home for the Precinct 4 justice of the peace in McGregor after discovering ADA repairs would cost more than the building is worth. The building at 307 S. Madison Ave. has a tax value of $83,510, according to county records. Correcting the ADA violations would cost about $147,000, county leaders have said. The county bought the building for $18,000 in 1994, when it was the Lone Star Gas Building, according to county documents.
County staff and the Department of Justice agreed on a 145-page settlement in November outlining required fixes.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Jones said the settlement gives one-, two-, and three-year deadlines for each of the violations for completion of repairs.
While there is no final price tag yet to complete all the repairs, the county dodged a bullet in not having to bring the McLennan County Jail up to ADA compliance, Jones said. County staff in negotiating the settlement helped save the county millions by creating a new policy to have all handicap inmates be housed in the Jack Harwell Detention Center, which already is ADA-compliant.
Bruce Thacker, with The Wallace Group Inc., said the Precinct 3 office needs the most work. The courtroom and restroom are not handicap accessible, and several doors need handles that are levers instead of knobs, he said. Drainage problems also will be addressed in front of the building, he said.
In October 2015, commissioners approved hiring The Wallace Group Inc. as part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s settlement, which required them to retain an independent licensed architect to provide officials with reviews, certifications and other architectural services for the repairs.
Pareya said his judge’s bench will be lowered 2 inches, and the jury box and witness stand will need to be renovated to be accessible to wheelchairs.
Jones said the slanting sidewalk that runs in front of the Precinct 3 building will be completely redone.
Thacker said crews will lower the counter inside the Precinct 2 office to make it accessible to anyone in a wheelchair.
In the Precinct 5 building, the courtroom will also undergo renovations to make it accessible.
He said the cost for the project is spread fairly evenly across the three county buildings. But, the Precinct 3 office also has to have asbestos removed from the floor of the courtroom, hallway and lobby area.
“Each of the locations has some custom, fairly custom woodworking that’s required to modify the existing judge’s benches, so we don’t have to rebuild and replace those,” he said.
Purchasing Director Ken Bass said he didn’t have a breakdown of costs per building.
“It’s just little things all and all, but it’s trying to get everything into compliance,” Bass said.