The Williamson County Commissioners Court decided dollar amounts for a new county headquarters and also approved moving forward with construction to expand the Williamson County Juvenile Justice Center on Feb. 17.

A price tag of around $117 million for a new county headquarters, or administration building, was initially brought before the court. A full expansion of the juvenile detention center would also cost around $97 million. However, commissioners expressed concerns about these prices as inflation in construction costs has caused project estimates to go up.

“I’m not sure that anybody is comfortable going from what we thought was going to be a $45 million building to a $120 million,” Precinct 2 County Commissioner Cynthia Long said. “I think we’ve got to really look at it, look at what’s going in there—do we need this much square foot for this and that?”

As the county plans to shift operations from the historic Williamson County Courthouse to a new location in Georgetown, much of the discussion among officials has focused around what departments will move into the new headquarters building—located near the corner of Southwestern Boulevard and the SE Inner Loop—once it is complete as well as what will be done with the empty space at the courthouse. Commissioners discussed whether some departments should be left to work in the downtown courthouse as the county will still be in charge of maintaining the property.

“Just like we are struggling with what we do with this [courthouse] building, 50 years from now the court will be struggling with the [administration] building that we’re contemplating,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Russ Boles said. “I want to make sure that they get the full ability out of the building. I don’t want to be wasteful, but I don’t want to pull up short because it’s less money.”

The court voted to set aside $90 million for the county headquarters building as well as beginning construction on three phases of the juvenile detention center expansion for $82.1 million. According to Williamson County Auditor Julie Kiley, the county has already allocated $35 million to the center's expansion and another $43 million to the county headquarters. With an additional $94 million needed for both projects, the county will use money from its 2021 tax anticipation note funds. The remaining funding, around $23 million, will come from future tax anticipation notes, which allow government entities to issue debt and repay with future tax collections.

Dan Wegmiller, a financial adviser with the Specialized Public Finance Firm, said the county has a strong capacity to take on new debt. He said new debt levels should also not have an impact on the county’s AAA bond rating.

In the meantime, County Judge Bill Gravell and Long will work with the county’s architects and engineers to try to bring the cost of the headquarters building below $90 million. No timeline for the completion of these projects has been given.

“This is a lot of money to build buildings,” Gravell said. “What I’m struggling with is that this seems to be common in the industry at this point. I think either we build the building, or we don’t.”