The Early City Council voted Tuesday evening to award Waldrop Construction the contract to renovate the Early Visitors & Events Center, a multipurpose venue at 419 Garmon Dr.   

Waldrop will work with various local subcontractors to build the facility at a cost of $1,194,162. Assistant city administrator Larry McConn said that price was about $242,000 under Waldrop’s original bid. “We have had a lot of value engineering on it to get it down to our budget number,” he said.   

McConn said some building features, originally designed by Fort Worth’s Schwartz-Hanson Architects, had been scrapped or modified during the cost-cutting. But he said those features could be added in the future. “Nothing that we are deleting out is anything that can’t be added back in at another time,” he said. “And that’s what we’re looking to do, to spread this out a little bit to where we can get this built and have it usable.”   

The Early council was originally scheduled to vote on the contract last month, but needed more time to get the project down to budget. Though there is no exact timetable for the project’s completion, McConn said he anticipates construction to start very soon and for the center to open in or around August 2018.   

Waldrop will use the base structure of the current 419 Garmon Dr. building, a former Lions Club property, and add to it. The new structure will host events, meetings, small conventions and the offices of the Early Convention and Visitors Bureau.   

During the meeting, the council also authorized city administrator Tony Aaron to sell fill dirt, select fill dirt and topsoil displaced by the city’s new wastewater treatment plant. Aaron said the city has been approached by interested buyers because of the quality of the soil, but couldn’t speculate on how much the city may earn from such sales.   

At the beginning of the meeting in his monthly administrator’s report, Aaron said the city’s early sales tax returns are up $10,000 over last year’s figures. He also thanked a local businessman who donated money for two new bulletproof vests for the Early Police Department. “I don’t know if he wanted his name out there or not,” Aaron said, “but I still think the gesture needed to be recognized publicly.”   

Finally, Aaron recounted his time at the International Council of Shopping Centers last week with McConn and Denise Hudson of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We got in front of a lot of business owners who own a lot of national chains,” Aaron said. “A lot of them were familiar with what’s going on in the Brownwood-Early area, and the economy.   

“There were several developers that are looking at our area to bring businesses here. A couple of the businesses that we spoke to specifically were diverse businesses, so they would be providing something that we don’t already have here,” he said.   

Aaron also reminded the council about Nov. 27, when the city will dedicate McDonald Park at 4 p.m. before the annual Christmas tree lighting at the intersection of Early Blvd. and Garmon Dr. at 6:30 p.m.