Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - March 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
County Officials Break Ground for New Justice Center
Houston County Courier - March 2009
By Sharron Randall
Ceremonial shovelfuls of dirt were turned by Houston County officials during the groundbreaking ceremony held Thursday, Feb. 27 for the county's new Houston County Justice and Law Enforcement Center, which will be located in the 700 block of South Fourth Street in Crockett.
The long awaited $13 million facility will include a new 144-bed jail, law enforcement center, offices and courtrooms, visitor's lobby, and laundry and kitchen spaces. Because of its architectural design, the center can be enlarged or added on in the future if it's warranted.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Willie Kitchen gave the invocation after which he welcomed and recognized out-of-town guests: DETCOG officials, elected officials from other counties, state and nation; and regional directors and commissioners from various agencies.
Attending the groundbreaking were Walter Diggles, executive director of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments; Jason Fuller, regional director for U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison; Linda Parker, regional economic developer for Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples; Wendy Dean from State Representative Chuck Hopson's office; Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Clyde Adams of Jasper; Joe Folk, former county judge of Jasper County; and Director of Regional Services for DETCOG Rusty Phillips.
Before taking up shovels and donning blue hard hats, Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt introduced the current commissioners, county and city officials, EDC and chamber leaders, law enforcement agencies, justices and judges, and architect, engineering and contracting firms involved in the planning, development and construction of the justice center.
The first group of participates turning dirt in the ceremonial rite was Judge Hunt, Commissioners Kitchen, Pat Perry, Kennon Kellum and Roger Dickey, Chief Deputy Ronnie Jordan, who filled in for Sheriff Darrel Bobbitt, Jail Administrator Jerry Baker, Justices of the Peace Kathy Bush and Clyde Black, Constables Kenneth "Red" Smith and Morris Luker and former county judge Chris von Duenhoff.
The next group included District Judge Pam Foster Fletcher, County Court at Law Judge Sarah Clark, District Attorney Donna Kaspar, County Attorney Daphne Session, County Clerk Bridget Lamb, County Tax Assessor-Collector Danette Millican, County Treasurer Dina Herrera, County Surveyor C.R. "Chili" Hodges, Crockett Mayor Wayne Mask and Crockett City Administrator Ron Duncan.
The shovels and hard hats were exchanged three more times when officers from the Houston County Sheriff's Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, architects, contractors, subcontractors, and citizens placed a foot on the ceremonial gold shovel in observance of the significant event.
Judge Hunt stated, "Our goal is to build the finest facility in rural Texas and get the most value for every dollar spent. To do that we are leaning on our architect, DRG Architects and our contractor J.E. Kingham Construction Company."
He also stated that the county is also working closely with the local Vulcraft plant and their parent company, Nucor Steel. "This facility has been designed to make use of products from Vulcraft and Nucor, and because of that we will build a better facility for less money," Hunt added.
Sales Manager John Grayson, Allen Cheatham, Jeff Jeffcoat and Dan Wilson represented Vulcraft on the program. Representing DRG Architects was Gary Adams and representing Kingham Construction was senior project manager Jack Smith.
Crockett Construction Company, which is a subcontractor under Kingham was also recognized and represented by Chris Easton. "We hope Crockett Construction is just the first of many local companies and individuals that will be working on this project," Judge Hunt said. "The general contractor will be soliciting bids from various subcontractors over the next few weeks, and actual construction is expected to begin in about a month."
Longtime resident and former South Fourth Street business owner Glayse Childs gave a brief history of the property where the Justice Center is being built. He told that as a matter of fact, that the slab on which guests were sitting was the originally known as the Dairy King, built by Dr. Henry Buttry who had a dental office across the street.
Chief Deputy Jordan recalled that in the 1950s, Dr. Buttry gave coupons which children could redeem for an ice cream cone after visiting him for dental care.
The Dairy King became the old Ball Drive-In building, which was recently razed to make room for the justice center; teenagers from several high schools parked in their trucks, heaps and cars every day after school and in the summertime to drink sodas and visit with their peers.
Finally, at the end of the program, Judge Hunt paid tribute to all the citizens of Houston County. He said, "We're not building this facility for the inmates who will be locked up in the county jail."
He said that if the county wanted to be "nice," it would just turn the prisoners loose. "No, we're building this for you, the citizens of Houston County, for your protection."