|Trinity Standard - Local News
Copyright 2011 - Polk County Publishing Company
Workers putting finishing touches on courthouse
Trinity Standard -
GROVETON – New sidewalks and grass together with a repaved parking area gave the outside of the Trinity County Courthouse a finished appearance last week, although some work is still underway. Work on the $5.3 million restoration project of the almost 100-year-old structure is nearing completion and Trinity County commissioners were given an update on the work during their meeting Monday. Architect Michael Gaertner of Galveston presented the report on the renovation and informed officials there had been a $10,000 error in the cost of the work – an error in the county’s favor. He explained that new accounting software made the mistake early this year and it was not caught until now. “We’re nearing the end of the project so we’ve been going over everything to make sure we’ve covered all the bases,” Gaertner told commissioners. “That’s when we caught this computer error.” The architect apologized for not finding it earlier, but noted that it means the county has $10,000 more in the bank that it thought it would have. Although he presented no change orders to the construction contract on Monday, Gaertner told commissioners there would be one more presented before the courthouse is finished. “We’re trying to wrap everything up in one final order,” Gaertner said, adding that it would involve minor items and not require a great deal of additional money. Originally built in stages, the three-story courthouse was completed in 1914. It has been undergoing a head to toe restoration for the past two years. Included in the project was the installation of an elevator, new plumbing and electrical systems and new central air and heating systems. The exterior and interior of the building also were returned to as close as possible to the 1914 appearance. Although not part of the 1914 design, the work included the installation of advanced telephone and Internet services to make the offices functional in the 21st century. The public is being invited to see the changes and tour the courthouse during a rededication ceremony planned for 10 a.m. Friday, July 22. Funding for the project was obtained through a $5 million Texas Historical Commission Courthouse Preservation Grant and $1.6 million in local funds obtained through the sale of certificates of obligation, In his report, Gaertner noted that work crews are still painting inside the building and that door hardware is still being installed. He noted that the elevator has not yet been connected to the alarm and emergency telephone systems, but said that work would be completed before the July 22 dedication ceremony. “It’s just a matter of connection a couple of wires,” he noted. Other work left to do will be the installation of three vault doors – two of which are being fabricated and the other restored. As of Monday, almost all of the light fixtures and window blinds have been installed. County eyes annex During the meeting, commissioners also approved a suggestion from County Judge Doug Page to hire an appraiser to examine the Trinity County Courthouse Annex Building. The county has leased the building for about two and a half years to house the county offices while the courthouse was being renovated. Page said he has been in discussion with the building’s owners about purchasing the annex and said he would “feel more comfortable” having the structure’s value professionally appraised before the negotiations continue. Once the county courthouse is reopened, not all of the offices are scheduled to move back into it. The county tax assessor-collector’s department is set to remain in the annex and the county clerk’s department is scheduled to move from its current location into the annex. Page has indicated that other annex offices, as well as its courtroom, would be of use after the courthouse reopens. Constable contract tabled In other business, the commissioners tabled a contract request from the Westwood Shores Property Owners Association (POA) so that Trinity County Attorney Joe Bell can make sure it conforms to state law. The POA is asking to contract for the services of Precinct 1 deputy constables to provide law enforcement services inside the subdivision. Under the plan presented Monday, the POA would pay the county $20 per hour -- up to $1,000 per month -- to have the Precinct 1 deputy constables patrol and respond to criminal complaints in Westwood Shores. Westwood Shores is in Precinct 2 but Carlyn Bluis, POA president, said they want to utilize the Precinct 1 officers because of the high level of service they already are providing. She noted that in the past, it has been the Precinct 1 officers who have responded with the most speed to calls for assistance. In presenting the contract proposal to the commissioners, Pct. 1 Constable Woody Wallace noted that one of his deputies, Mark Cole, currently resides in Westwood Shores and is often called upon at all hours of the day or night when something happens there. “He’s doing the job now so he might as well get paid for it,” Wallace said. At present, deputy constables in all four county precincts are not paid by the county but can earn fees for serving civil papers. While the Westwood Shores POA has utilized “contract deputies” in the past, Bell noted the plan being presented now is different. In the past, the POA contracted with the county to have two full-time law enforcement officers assigned to the subdivision. This arrangement was first handled through the sheriff’s department and later through the Precinct 3 constable’s office. The POA basically hired its own staff, had them commissioned as peace officers through the county and paid the county for their salary and benefit costs. In this situation, Bell said the POA would be hiring existing deputy constables to work on an hourly, part-time basis. While a similar arrangement is in place between Wallace’s office and Harbor Point in Sebastopol, Bell noted that subdivision is within Precinct 1 and that could make a difference. Commissioners agreed to table the matter to give Bell time to research the matter with the Texas Attorney General’s Office. The county attorney said he probably could have the information in time for the July 25 meeting of the commissioners. Other business During the meeting, commissioners also: • Approved a request from Sheriff Ralph Montemayor to update the existing fire alarm system in the county jail. Montemayor said the alarm system did not pass a recent inspection and its control panel needed to be replaced. Guardian Force Security Services submitted a bid of $1,914.90 to install the new panel, an amount which Montemayor said was available in the jail’s maintenance fund. • Voted to keep the $10 road and bridge and $1.50 child safety fee schedule for auto registrations during 2012. • Approved an agreement with Angelina County on mixing road materials. Under the contract, Trinity County would pay $6 per ton to have Angelina County mix road materials. Trinity County would pay for the materials and the cost of transportation. Pct. 1 Commissioners Grover “Tiger” Worsham said this system would allow him to use a road oil mixture at about one-third the cost of asphalt. • Voted to correct spelling and other errors to county road names so that the Texas Department of Transportation and Trinity County road maps all conform with the 9-1-1 map. • Voted to schedule a public hearing for Aug. 8 on placing “no passing” and “no thru trucks”signs on Pinecrest Road. • Approved a new contract with San Jacinto County which lowers the daily cost of housing prisoners in their jail from $40 to $38. The new price was designed to match the daily rate now being charged to house prisoners in the new Houston County Jail in Crockett. • Voted to accept donations totaling $2,143 to offset the cost of fuel used to fight the massive Bearing wildfire. • Voted to accept donations totaling $425 made to the Precinct 1 constable’s office to help pay for fuel used by deputy constables. • Declared the 12 juror chairs used prior to the renovation of the county’s district courtroom as surplus and have them sold through the Trinity Auction Gallery. • Approved the purchase of fixed asset management software for use by the county treasurer and auditor at a cost of $975.