The Rockport City Council, at its workshop meeting Tuesday, Sept. 29, deliberated about the new city hall project, as well as the Concho Street drainage project.
Both of those projects are included in the issuance, sale and delivery of up to $14,720,000 in Texas Tax Notes the council approved at its Aug. 31 meeting. Those tax notes will partially or fully fund the city hall ($11,770,000), Concho Street stormwater drainage ($2,300,000), and Key Allegro Bridge easements ($650,000).
PGAL’s Paul Bonnette, the architect for Rockport city hall, as well as the proposed new courthouse, was at Tuesday’s workshop, along with Mike Bishop of Broaddus & Associates, the Construction Manager Agent for city hall.
Bonnette said not a lot has changed, regarding the size of the building.
“We’ve been making sure the cost estimate is accurate,” he said. “We are at the end of the schematic design phase, and ready to move into design development.”
The projected cost is now $13,180,436, versus the earlier estimate of $14,431,101. That is $1.3 million less.
The higher estimate is the initial one by PGAL using its standard pricing. The second estimate was by Broaddus, which is a more accurate estimate with current costs, which falls under its responsibilities as Construction Manager Agent.
The lower estimate includes $11,197,701 for construction, and $1,982,735 in soft costs, furniture and fixtures, equipment, and contingency.
The city received $2,661,101.08 from grants and insurance settlement (for old city hall destroyed by Hurricane Harvey). The council will us $11,770,000 of the tax notes for the new city hall, as well. They will be used as needed.
If the city hall and courthouse are constructed together, additional savings will be realized, according to Mayor Pat Rios.
In answer to a question from the public about parking, and where it is positioned at the site, Bonnette noted he talked about that issue with Rios and City Manager Kevin Carruth. The concern is there aren’t handicap parking spaces near the actually entrance.
Bonnette said there is some room along Magnolia Street, where handicap spaces can be placed.
Another concern aired was the look of the city hall from the south and west sides, since the focus is on the north and east face of the building.
Bonnette noted all sides of the structure will have the same finishes.
The base material (approximately the lower third of the building) will have a shellcrete look, giving the feel of being on the coast.
The middle section will be brick, and the top (approximately) one third will be stucco.
“It is a very coastal style,” said Bonnette.
PGAL looked at different styles, including art deco (i.e. - Miami) and something that looked more like the original courthouse.
(Note: PGAL is architect for city hall and the courthouse, part of the complex collectively called the Downtown Anchor Project.)
Bonnette said the style selected is similar to some buildings in Galveston, as well as Corpus Christi.
“This design was middle of the road (in terms of cost),” he said. “It’s a timeless look. It’s not going to go out of style.”
The exact landscaping to be used around the new city hall, and the plaza that will separate city hall and the courthouse, will be determined later.
Mayor Pro-tem JD Villa asked if there is anything included in the design to provide for physical security.
Bonnette said the use of security arms at parking lot entrances was considered, but fencing was not.
“There will be security cameras inside and out, and card access for employees,” he said.
Villa asked about the roof style, as well as the colors scheme.
Bonnette said the roof style was chosen to withstand storms, as well as cost. As far as color scheme, he noted different brick samples can be considered.
Councilman Bob Cunningham asked, “I thought we had talked about putting all stucco above the shellcrete, and leaving out the brick (which is more expensive)?”
Bonnette said there is maintenance issues, as well as design/strength issues using that much stucco surface.
He said the building is designed to withstand winds up to 150 mph.
“It meets all the code requirements,” he said, adding that all windows will have impact resistant glass.
It was also noted the base floor elevation will be 12 feet above sea level.
Cunningham also asked about the estimated cost of the city hall and courthouse, and how it might change costs if the city ends up doing its project on its own.
“We looked at it as three different projects,” said Bonnette, with the community building, which has not been designed, being the third structure.”
(Note: the community building is fully funded via a separate source.)
“Tonight’s estimates are worst case scenario,” said Carruth.
Cunningham also asked if COVID-19 is affecting construction costs.
Bishop responded, “Buildings we’re doing are not experiencing cutbacks (in labor, materials, etc.).”
Rios said by the time construction starts (middle part of 2021), hopefully things will be more back to normal.
“Hopefully, we’ll have more competitive bidding, as well,” he said.
Bishop said the first challenge he was given was to keep the project within budget.
“We were able to put brick back in and stay within budget,” he said. “We (as construction manager agent) watch the budget, quality of work, scope of work, scheduling, and safety.
“My job is to drive the train down the track and stop before the end.”
Cunningham noted after visiting PGAL’s website, and seeing the cost of some of the other structures they have designed, some of the others were cheaper.
Bonnette noted the areas in which many of the buildings Cunningham mentioned did not have to meet the strict coastal building codes, which makes building here more expensive.
There were other questions about why the municipal court and city council chambers need to be separate areas.
Carruth said scheduling issues (between courts, jury selection, city boards, and council meetings) were an issue in the old city hall, at which everyone shared the same space.
Cunningham also asked about the oak trees, since he didn’t see any on the elevation plans.
“We are going to save all the ones (that are in good shape),” said Bonnette.
Cunningham also asked who made the decision about which design to use.
Carruth said it was he, the mayor, and department heads.
Another question was raised regarding the foundation of the structure.
Bonnette noted it is designed to get a “good firm base”, including deep pilings.
“We’ve done soil testing and know what’s down there,” he said.
Cunningham’s last question was about future expansion.
Bonnette said it would involve the area currently used for employee parking, on the south side of the building.
Concho Street Drainage
The Concho Street drainage project, which is also part of the tax notes, is estimated at $2.3 million.
It includes approximately 3,000 linear feet on concrete box culvert installation, from the low area west of Business Highway 35, and then east down Concho approximately nine blocks to the exiting outfall at Rockport Harbor.
Public Works Director Mike Donoho said the new city hall will abut the current drainage box on Concho, and it will have to be relocated.
“This is part of the overall drainage design for the Downtown Anchor Project to ensure (what we are building) does not flood out our neighbors,” said Donoho.
He said the city hopes to move on this project as soon as possible so it is completed, or out of the way once construction on the new city hall begins.
Donoho noted the Rockport Center for the Arts downtown campus, the Railroad Depot parking, etc. are all in the same general downtown area.
“All these things are happening together,” he said.
Addressing general flooding issues in downtown Rockport, Donoho said, “We all know the issues downtown. (This project) will address regular flooding issues, put there’s no amount of engineering that can stop (tidal flooding in low lying areas).”
Cunningham asked about the drainage project’s timeline.
“I don’t see it as being long,” said Donoho. “Once started, it will go quickly.”