Williamson County will allocate up to $1.8 million of federal relief funds to the Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center to help the nonprofit organization cover unexpected construction costs on its new headquarters.

Williamson County Treasurer Scott Heselmeyer on June 15 spoke with Williamson County commissioners to review early but urgent plans to earmark chunks of the county’s pool of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

The federal recovery package received congressional approval in March, and Heselmeyer said the county will see more than $110 million of relief funds from the program.

The county treasurer asked commissioners to approve allocation of ARPA funds for two projects—filling a backlog of open prosecutor positions within the Williamson County District Attorney’s Office and covering a shortfall of construction funds for the upcoming WCCAC.

As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, construction of the new WCCAC is currently running $1.8 million over its original $5.5 million budget. On May 25, Williamson County Facilities Director Dale Butler told county commissioners the growing budget concerns come as the price of lumber is skyrocketing nationwide.

According to a June report from the Forest Analytics Department at Texas A&M University, the price of framing lumber rose to $1,494 per thousand board feet in May. That was a 250% increase from May 2020.

“It is not my intention to use to cover that [entire] $1.8M with ARPA funds, but we’d like that flexibility,” Heselmeyer said.

The new WCCAC would be adjacent to the current structure on Wilco Way in Georgetown. The WCCAC has been temporarily housed at 211 Commerce Blvd., Ste. 101, Round Rock, since late March. The WCCAC offers multidisciplinary response to allegations of child abuse and ensures that all child victims get the services and support they need under one roof and free of charge. In 2019, the nonprofit center responded to 4,115 cases of reported abuse.

District attorney’s ARPA request

Heselmeyer further requested commissioners approve the allocation of ARPA funds to help fill a backlog of three open prosecutor positions.

Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick said the prosecutors are necessary to the county as criminal trials return to the courtroom. The county recently held its first criminal trial in a courtroom in 15 months, Dick told commissioners, after the coronavirus pandemic pushed court procedures online.

“The more [prosecutors] you have, the easier it is to move cases,” Dick said June 15.

The county allocated about $1.6 million in ARPA funds for the district attorney’s office to fill those open positions.