By BRAD KELLAR
The steps at the Hunt County Courthouse will be able to receive needed repair work, thanks to the awarding of a big state grant.
The Texas Historical Commission (THC) announced April 30 that Hunt County will receive a $450,000 emergency grant award through the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program. The agency awarded matching grants totaling more than $5.9 million to 18 Texas counties to help preserve historic courthouses.
Hunt was one of the counties to receive funds in Round VIII of the program, along with Callahan, Dickens, Dimmit, Hidalgo, Houston, Jefferson, Karnes, Lamar, Lee, Limestone, Lipscomb, Lynn, Polk, Rains, San Saba, Upshur, and Wilson counties.
According to the announcement, the THC requested $20 million for the Round VIII grant cycle, but was appropriated $4.2 million by the 83rd Texas Legislature. Although 78 counties currently qualify for additional funding, the Round VIII emergency grants are expected to address serious building deficiencies affecting usability, structural, and safety issues in historic — more than 50 years old — county courthouses.
The Hunt County Courthouse is 85 years old, as it was formally dedicated on April 11, 1929.
The specific work will be focused on repairs to the stairways on the north and south sides of the courthouse, which through the years have endured severe decay due to water infiltration, to where they have become a life and safety concern for those having to enter and exit the building.
An engineering study revealed the rebar and the concrete supports inside the steps have eroded due to water leaking through. As the courthouse is listed as a historical landmark, the repairs would have to be performed in order to match the existing nature of the steps, including using the same type of material in the construction.
In order to qualify for potential grant funding from the Texas Historical Commission, the county was required to draft a master plan for the project, which included hiring the ArchiTexas architectural firm.
Judge John L. Horn, with the approval of the Commissioner’s Court, appointed a committee to oversee the development of the master plan for the courthouse and work closely with ArchiTexas to oversee the implementation of the project.
“I would like to commend everyone that took the time to serve on the committee,” Horn said. “Cheryl Blue and Herman Orange in our purchasing department stayed on top of this project to the end, while County Court At Law Judge Andrew Bench, County Auditor Jimmy Hamilton and County Maintenance Supervisor Jimmy Moore adjusted their schedules to invest significant time and efforts to see this project come to fruition. In addition I want to thank the commissioner’s for supporting the restoration of this historic building and extending its functional service to the citizens of Hunt County. The grant funds that have been awarded will provide significant relief to the overall cost of the project and allow funds to be allocated to be re-invested in other areas of public services for the community.”
Since October 2006, only one entrance or exit is available to the public at the courthouse, on the ground floor doors on the north side.
The second floor doors on the north (Lee Street) and south (Washington Street) sides of the courthouse were closed for security reasons and are designated for emergency access only.