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Stories Added - December 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
Courthouse renovations back on track
Trinity Standard - December 2008
GROVETON – Trinity County commissioners issued a sigh of relief Monday after learning plans for the renovation of the county courthouse were once again on track.
Last month the commissioners were told the start of the construction process could be delayed until August, but County Judge Mark Evans told them Monday it is now set to get underway in March.
Evans said he met Dec. 4 in Austin with architect Michael Gaertner and officials with the Texas Historical Commission (THC) to discuss the situation and together they were able to come up with a more workable schedule for the project.
Evans added the architect and THC officials are scheduled to be at the Jan. 12 meeting of the Trinity County Commissioners Court.
Last month when Gaertner told commissioners that changes sought by the THC could delay the start of the project, Evans and the county commissioners voiced concern.
The county had originally expected the construction phase of the project would already be underway and had made arrangements to rent several buildings in Groveton to house the courthouse offices during the work.
Although those buildings are not yet ready to occupy, Evans noted in November that the owners, the Thornberry Family Partnership, had expended a considerable amount of money to remodel them for the county and would reasonably expect to begin recouping that investment through rent payments as soon as possible.
During Monday’s report, Evans said the new project schedule is much more reasonable.
It calls for the construction plans to be finalized by the end of December and for the county to begin advertising for bids in mid-January.
The bid opening is set for Feb. 24 and after a review by a local building committee, the commissioners are set to award contracts on March 9.
A 14-month long construction period is scheduled to begin on March 17 with the work scheduled to reach “substantial completion” on May 17, 2010. Substantial completion is the point where the county could move back into the building while the contractor continued with minor work.
A rededication ceremony of would then be scheduled for sometime during the spring or summer of 2010.
The $6.6 million project is being funded using $1.6 million in local funds and a $5 million courthouse preservation grant from THC.
Completed in 1914, the work on the courthouse will include the installation of an elevator, new electrical and plumbing systems and a central air and heating system. The exterior of the courthouse also will be restored to its original appearance as will the second floor district courtroom. Courthouse offices, although modernized with Internet access, will also be restored to a 1914 appearance.
In his report to the commissioners, Evans suggested that in addition to selecting a building committee to assist with the project, commissioners also might want to hire a construction superintendent who could work on the county’s behalf directly with the contractor.
Action on the selection of the committee and construction superintendent will be on the agenda during the January meeting.
County to provide funds
for foster child care
During the meeting, commissioners also approved a new contract with the Texas Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) under which it will provide emergency funding for foster childcare.
Julia Conner, a contract manager with DFPS, noted that in the past, the Trinity County Child Welfare Board, a volunteer organization that raises money through donations and fundraisers, provided emergency funds.
She noted that the number of children being placed in foster care has grown and it was becoming harder and harder for the Child Welfare Board to come up with the needed funds.
Conner said that at present, there were 26 Trinity County children in foster care.
She noted that when a child is removed from their home in order to insure his or her safety, quite often they have very few clothing items or other possessions.
The emergency funding is needed to provide for the immediate needs of the child.
She noted that foster parents receive funds from the state to help cover the cost of caring for the child, but that money does not cover the immediate need of things such as a coat, underwear or school clothes.
The Rev. Lewis Jones, a member of the local Child Welfare Board, indicated that they have been spending between $2,000 and $2,500 per year for the emergency assistance program.
He noted the local board also tries to provide the foster children with birthday and Christmas gifts.
Evans said that while the county probably could not help with the purchase of gifts, they would be able to assist with emergency items.
“That probably would free up some of your money to use in these other areas,” Evans told Jones.
During the meeting, the commissioners also:
• Learned that the county has already expended its state allocation for juvenile detention costs. Any additional expenses through the end of August 2009 will have to be paid using local funds.
• Adopted a new mileage fee based on current Internal Revenue Service standards. Because of the recent decline is gasoline costs, the county’s reimbursement for travel was reduced from 58.5 cents to 55 cents per mile.
• Approved a resolution in support of continued state funding for the Texans Feeding Texas Home Delivered Meal Grant Program. Evans noted that the Groveton Senior Citizens Center has obtains funding from the grant in the past and was seeking support to continue the program.