Walking through the unoccupied, unfinished rooms of the new courthouse annex building recently, Brown County Judge Ray West said the controversial building — being built as part of the county’s contract with the McKinstry company — will be among his topics at the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon Friday.
    No one was working when West took a visitor through the building’s interior, pointing out the rooms that will include storage and space for the treasurer’s office and elections office. West wasn’t sure why no one had been working at the building for the past several days, and he didn’t know when the building will be completed.
    West said he planned to call a McKinstry representative to find out why no work was being done.
    That did not dampen West’s belief in validity of the McKinstry contract and the building, which has drawn controversy from critics who say the contract is too expensive, and the county should have given local contractors the chance to bid on the project. The building is located off Fisk Avenue and a few hundred yards from the north side of the courthouse.
    Commissioners earlier authorized the issuance of $6.57 million in certificates of obligation for an Energy Savings Performance Contract with McKinstry. The contract includes about $1 million for the construction of the new building.
    The county’s proposed tax rate for the 2016-17 fiscal year is 60.93 cents per $100 valuation, up from the current rate of 59.55 cents. The debt service portion of the tax rate is increasing to pay the debt on the McKinstry contract, West said.
    West said McKinstry has a state contract so “you don’t have to go out for bids on a project like this.”
    When reminded that critics of the project have said the county could have created work for local contractors, West said there are “no local general contractors who have a state permit to do this.”     
    West said he doesn’t think the building will be ugly. The comment was in response to a citizen who earlier referred to the building as an “ugly brick building.”
    ”I think it’s going to look nice,” West said. “It’s going to be very conservative, very conventional. But it’s not a house, and it’s not a business. It’s a government building and I want it to complement the look of the courthouse. The county will be proud of it. It will be highly functional and it will allow us to give the Adams Street Community Center back to the city.”
    West was referring to space in the Adams Street Community Center the county uses to house the elections office.