The taxing entities that make up the Hood Central Appraisal District will soon be asked to approve a larger facility to be built in Acton.
Much of the county’s growth is in that area, and HCAD representatives feel it is a more centralized location than its offices at 1902 W. Pearl St.
Favorable votes by seven of the 10 taxing entities are needed for approval.
The HCAD hopes to get that approval and move forward within 45-60 days.
Chief Appraiser Eddie Roe and architect Fred Cauble gave an almost hour-long presentation at an interlocal government meeting held Wednesday at Granbury City Hall. HCAD board member Mark Jackson also addressed the elected officials, which included members of the Granbury School Board of Trustees, the Hood County Commissioners Court, and the Granbury City Council.
The HCAD representatives said that acting in the coming weeks will allow the HCAD to take advantage of construction-related costs that are currently, but perhaps temporarily, trending downward. The facility’s projected cost of $6.2 million could be reduced significantly, they indicated.
The concept includes a revenue-generating lease agreement with the Department of Public Safety, provided the Legislature approves the funding.
Under that plan, about $1.5 million of the HCAD’s construction costs would include a “shell” that would provide space for a full-service, eight-station driver’s license office. The state would finish out and furnish that part of the building and pay rent to the HCAD. The HCAD would apply the rent to the annual debt service.
If things go as planned, the facility will have a drive-through service window for appraisal district business; a foyer/public area between the HCAD and DPS offices; public restrooms; and a large meeting room with a movable wall that can be used by the public and as a polling location.
The building is planned for the southwest corner of Acton Highway and Acton School Road (not James Road as previously announced) near Acton Elementary School on land that is currently owned by GISD. The school district and the HCAD will swap properties, with GISD taking over the HCAD’s current offices by Granbury High School. The appraised values of the properties are similar.
School traffic is not expected to be an issue at the Acton location, according to HCAD.
Roe indicated that there are many problems with the current building, which is about 40 years old, as well as its location. Issues include a lack of adequate space for current employees and no room for additional ones that are needed to handle the growing number of accounts. Also, there are no public restrooms, parking spaces are taken up by parents waiting for high school students, and customers have difficulty getting into and out of the parking lot when traffic is backed up before and after school.
Roe said that the HCAD has “close to $1 million saved up for a down payment” and that it will finance the project with Government Capital, with payments built into the HCAD’s operating budget. Each taxing unit pays a portion of the HCAD’s operating budget proportionate to the amount of tax they levy divided by the total levy of all units. GISD pays the highest amount at 65%.
Cauble encouraged the elected officials to “look ahead” and said that “waiting is going to hurt in the long run.”
He stated, “I'll tell you right now, with what's going on in our economy, I'm seeing things slow down. So, if we get this out in the next 45 days to the bidders, you could save as much as a half-million dollars in just costs to build. Because there are contractors calling us, we get about three calls a week from people looking for work right now, but it's slowing down, and products are going down. Six months ago, we were estimating this at $6 million plus with the lease space. We might beat that number.”
In his remarks to city, county and school officials, Jackson noted that there is a process involved that includes the Texas Facilities Commission and that the approval being sought from the HCAD’s taxing entities is only for the building’s location.
“Construction documents aren’t even ready,” he said, but added that “if we can act in the next 45 to 60 days” the HCAD could “begin to bid this thing out.”
Jackson said that the estimated project costs represent “an extremely conservative construction budget” and that 20% of the estimated cost is contingency.
“We don't feel like we're asking for the moon here,” he stated. “We would love to have you three governing bodies be on board with this and help us move this community forward and get us a facility everyone can be proud of and (that will) be very serviceable to the public.”
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