Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - May 2009
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Courthouse now ready for construction start
Houston County Courier - May 2009
GROVETON – The final step leading to the renovation of the Trinity County Courthouse was taken Monday, May 18, when County Judge Mark Evans issued the “notice to proceed” to the contractor.
“This is our final step leading to construction,” Evans said Monday. “This has been a long time coming and it is a big relief to reach this point. Now, the contractor takes over and begins work.”
Evans said the notice formally turns the building over to J.C. Stoddard Construction Co. of San Antonio effective at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, May 21.
While the county offices moved into their temporary quarters more than a month ago, Evans said it has taken some time to move all of the old records out of the building as well as some salvage items – such as fans, heaters and plumbing fixtures – which the county hopes to sell.
“Everything is essentially out of the courthouse, or will be by 12:01 a.m. Thursday,” the judge said. “There are a few items of salvage that we elected to let the contractor remove during the demolition phase of the project.”
During the $4.7 million renovation project, the building’s exterior will be returned to its original appearance. Interior work will include the installation of an elevator, new electrical and plumbing systems, a central air and heating system and the renovation of all of the office areas.
In addition, the second-floor district courtroom will be returned to its original layout and given a look as close as possible to the appearance it had when the building was completed in 1914.
The project is expected to take at least 14 months to complete.
“Its hard to realize that we have been working on this project for more than 10 years now, and its finally happening,” Evans said.
He noted that the Texas Historical Commission’s Courthouse Preservation Program was begun under then Gov. George W. Bush.
“The National Trust identified courthouses as being among the most endangered historical buildings in the nation,” Evans recalled. “That prompted Gov. Bush to go to the Texas legislature to ask for funds for a courthouse preservation program.”
Although Trinity County commissioners applied for grant funds to renovated the local courthouse, their application was rejected during the early two-year grant cycles.
In 2004, the county was finally awarded a $373,000 planning grant under the program which allowed the commissioners to hire Michael Gaertner and Associates of Galveston to draw up the plans for the renovation.
It also put them in line to receive a construction grant during the 2006 grant cycle but problems arose in Austin that forced the program to shut down for two years.
Evans said the difficulty occurred when the “legislature tried to get creative with the funding” and attempted to allocate federal highway money to the program. When the Federal Highway Administration balked at using those funds for courthouses, the program had to wait until the legislature meet in 2007 to continue.
“Fortunately, we were able to get the funding back on track,” Evans said, noting that in 2008, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) awarded the county a $5 million grant for the project.
In addition to the state grant, the county commissioners issued $1.6 million in certificates of obligation to raise the local matching funds required by THC.