Bryan Staff Tasked to Cut Justice Center Costs

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Can Bryan meet the rising costs of construction on their new Justice Center? That's what the city council wants to find out. The council has asked city staff to find ways to cut the cost of the project, and fast.

Originally budgeted for $14.7 million, the cost of Bryan's new police department-municipal court combination came in with a low bid of $17.7 million, $3 million over budget.

In the past weeks, Assistant City Manager Hugh Walker and staff have trimmed construction costs by a million-and-a-half. Following Tuesday's meeting, staff has been tasked to try and cut more.

"Are there some capital projects that could be delayed or postponed, even cancelled? We'll look at some of those," Walker said. "We'll also look to see if there's the possibility to issue additional debt that we had not planned on issuing."

The council did have the option to reject the current bids, but for Mayor Ernie Wentrcek, the best bet was betting the staff can trim more costs.

"I would be very reluctant to reject these bids and go and ask for new bids because what might happen is we may come back with the same bids, but less value in the facility that would be provided," the mayor said.

Or the new bids could be higher for the same reason these bids came in high: the rising cost of construction. Another concern: the size of the facility, which is much bigger than the PD's current digs. But in five-to-ten years, estimates have the department and muni court outgrowing the building.

"I'm going to project that, probably, what's going to happen is that instead of building on, that we'll probably move municipal court out as we did back in 1990 or so when municipal court moved out of our present facility," said Bryan Police Chief Mike Strope.

But Strope says BPD is ready to move, though it looks to be to a pricier facility.

The council has two more meetings scheduled before time on the current bids expires. Walker says they'll likely have changes to propose to the council by the next meeting in two weeks.