An error in the architectural design of the Erath County Jail expansion has cost the county - and taxpayers - more than $30,000 and an additional $100,000 is at stake.

DRG Architects drew design plans based on the stamped and approved 1988 blueprints of the jail. The inaccuracy was discovered in the 23-year-old plans after a survey conducted by architects indicated that a six-foot portion of the jail would be too close to State Highway 67.

A city of Stephenville ordinance mandates that all buildings be set back at least 20 feet from roadways within city limits. The design plans placed the building less than three feet over the limit - only 17 feet from the highway.

The county filed a variance with the city in hopes officials would recognize the savings that decision would pose to taxpayers. The variance was denied.

"We plead for the variance, but it wasn't possible on the city's part," said County Judge Tab Thompson.

Instead, architects redesigned portions of the building and resubmitted a site design plan to the city - a process that has now taken a month.

County commissioners approved a payment of $33,750 to DRG for providing updated designs to the jail expansion.

Meanwhile, construction crews who were expected to begin work on Jan. 17 sit idle at an estimated cost of $1,200 per day to the county. The green light was given to begin dirt work, but all construction is on hold until a site design plan is approved by city officials.

The city submits site plans to a third party professional firm for approval. Although the site plan has been approved by the county's architects and the Texas Jail Standards Commission, the city has been unable to approve the plans.

"The plans are being reviewed," said Betty Chew, director of community development.

Commissioners approved a change order Monday totaling more than $98,000 for additional construction expenses.

The largest portion of the change order rang in at $64,000 for two water meters for fire hydrants. The city requires metered hydrants on all water hydrants not owned and maintained by the city, according to Chew. Wal-Mart, Bosque River Center and the Erath County Volunteer Fire Department all have metered hydrants.

An estimated $33,000 will go toward labor expenses for construction crews who expected to begin work more than a month ago.

A 5 percent financial contingency is built into the agreement with the construction contractor and is used when unexpected issues arise. It is unclear, however, to county officials whether the county will be billed before that contingency is considered or if they must pay the change order immediately.