Coryell County commissioners select architect for new county jail


Cove Leader-Press 

The Coryell County Commissioners’ Court selected Southwest Architects, Inc. as the architectural firm to design a new jail facility during a special meeting held Monday morning.

Southwest Architects, Inc., based in Fort Worth, was one of seven firms that responded to the Request for Qualifications posted by the county. The jail committee, made of Precinct 1 Commissioner Kyle Matthews, Precinct 4 Commissioner Ray Ashby and Sheriff Scott Williams, reviewed the submissions and narrowed the list down to three applicants, Southwest, DRG and Burns,  who showed that they were “true jail architects,” according to Matthews. The committee then held meetings on November 13 and 14, with representatives from the top three companies invited to give a presentation.

Matthews explained that the four other companies had experience in municipalities and counties, but not in actually building a jail facility. 

In accordance with the RFQ posted, Monday was the earliest day that the Commissioners could select and notify a firm.

“It is the committee’s recommendation that Southwest Architects, Inc. which is based out of 2921 Langford Rd, in Fort Worth, be awarded, that they be chosen as the architects to construct the jail,” Matthews said. “Looking at all their qualifications, their experience and their willing to work with the county because we are behind the eight-ball on our money because construction cost has gone up. They were very interested in the [Coryell County] Road and Bridge Department assisting them in the groundwork and also in the laying of the utilities. That’s the group that was chosen by jail committee.”

County Judge Roger Miller quoted Texas Government Code 2254.003, Professional Services, subchapter A, which states “A governmental entity may not select a provider of professional services or a group or association of providers or award a contract for the services on the basis of competitive bids submitted for the contract or for the services, but shall make the selection and award 1. On the basis of demonstrated competence and qualifications to perform the service, and 2. For a fair and reasonable price.”

He asked the committee to explain their process for selecting the firm and if they had a ranking system according to the 14 criteria listed on the RFQ.

“The first thing is we can’t negotiate a reasonable price with them, because we can’t do that until a company is chosen,” Matthews said, adding that he could go down the list of criteria and explain reasoning for decision.

The firm completed all the necessary requirements, Matthews said. Members of the committee contacted other counties that Southwest had completed facilities in, such as Bosque County and Mills County.

“Their experience in the design is more along the lines, in my opinion, of what we need, and that’s not just a metal shell,” Matthews said. “They build more of a brick and mortar type jail, something that truly lasts.  Their project experience is in the RFQ.”

Though a small firm, they work just like every other architectural firm, he added.

“We did look at their tracking methods for deadlines and budgets. I actually went through the 30 folders that they left with Mills County and chose a tracking of every stage of the project, where the architect actually visited once a week with their builder,” Matthews said. “They tracked it. They met with at least one person from the Commissioners Court, and then what I really liked about their set up as well is they have a process of maintaining that jail throughout. They give you a project book, a series of documents that basically tells you how to keep that jail up. Where, some of these others, when they’re finished, they’re finished.”

Williams said one thing that “really tripped my trigger” was that the firm would be willing to stop by weekly if not twice a week, throughout the project.

“So that meant a whole lot to us to make sure everything’s being built right,” Williams said, adding that he reached out to the other jails and confirmed this.

“The state requirement is they [the architect] meet once a month with a team, one from court, one from manager at risk and one from themselves,” said Ashby. “This guy wants to meet once a week and update and make sure everything is right.”

Ashby said they were able to verify that Southwest did this with other jails and counties.

“His knowledge stood out more than any of the other firms as well. We didn’t just talk to him for five minutes,” Ashby said. “I think our shortest session was probably three or four hours with any architect, and this one was no different, and we were just more impressed with this guy than any of them. We feel like he will work with us money-wise, work with Road and Bridge Department.”

“They were the only firm when asked about dirt work, path work, site work, that were willing to work with that kind of stuff,” Matthews added. “You know, you’ve got $1,053,000 worth of dirt work on a water and sewer line. It is my personal opinion and my building experience that if we use them, use the Road and Bridge Department, as long as we get that utility easement through there, that it can be done a heck of a lot cheaper than $1,053,000.”

 Williams later added that with every project Southwest had done, they utilized any savings to add to the infrastructure or add more bed space.

“This architect firm was very clear about let’s try to save as much money as we can, that way at the tail end, if we need to go bigger or what have you, there would be a little nest egg there,” Williams said. “One of the three that we interviewed [Burns], they were saying ‘The money that y’all are wanting to spend is very much a challenge. We think what you need to spend is $34 million.’”

Ashby said that it wasn’t an easy decision to make.

“I’ll quote the Sheriff, the human side of me wanted to go with DRG because they’ve been with us all this time,” Ashby said. “They call me once a week asking where we’re at and anything. I like the guys a lot, so the decision was not easy.”

Matthews explained that some of the decision making included looking at the projects and looking at a facility shows no wasted space. 

One of the things that Southwest looked at that doesn’t go against the bed size or jail size is the intake process and how large to make it, he added. Southwest Architects, Inc. has added extra space for a holding area to add a buffer to the bed space in other jails, Matthews and Williams said.

After their discussion, the commissioners unanimously voted to approve the selection.




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