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February 27, 2013

County to take steps to fix courthouse

GREENVILLE — It will cost approximately $1.1 million to rehabilitate the north and south side of the Hunt County Courthouse steps under the Texas Historical Commission’s (THC) standards.

Hunt County Court-At-Law No. 1 Judge Andrew Bench presented the Hunt County Commissioners Court with two propositions the Hunt County Courthouse Committee made on Tuesday. The first would be to wait a year and apply for a grant through the state; the second would mean entering into negotiations with an architect company now.

According to Bench, the latter is necessary because the condition of the courthouse steps are such poor condition.

“They are going to collapse, we just don’t know when,” he said, adding that the south side of the courthouse steps are the highest priority. “We cannot wait 12 to 18 months for the steps to be fixed.”

Included in the $1.1 million is $638,200 for the repair, and a $300,000 in allowance for the south side and a $200,000 allowance for the north.

The court approved the courthouse committee to enter into negotiations with Harrison, Walker & Harper LP, and Architexas to come up with a master plan and set date to repair the steps as soon as possible.

With the steep cost of $1.1 million, Hunt County Auditor Jimmy Hamilton proposed to pay a portion of it with the county’s Interest & Sinking Fund, which was used to help pay for the Hunt County Criminal Justice Center, and through the use of tax notes and anticipation notes.

“Hunt County has a residual fund balance of over $500,000 in the Interest & Sinking Fund which can be used towards the retirement of the Anticipation Notes,” he said. “That is a good thing in all of this.”

 By using tax notes, the county would be able to pay off the $1.1 million within seven years with an approximate interest accumulation of $60,700.

“With interest rates around 1.5 percent, the cost of the money is not nearly as great as it would have been in years gone by,” Hamilton said.

John Horn, Hunt County Judge, said that even though it will cost the county, fixing the steps right away is what the county needs to do.

“This is a life safety issue,” he said.

If the county had chosen to pursue to fix the steps not by the THC’s standards, it could have saved up to 30 to 40 percent in costs. But that would mean losing the historical marker outside the court and a loss of any reimbursement from the state on future rehabilitation projects on the courthouse, which according to Bench, the court will need to address in the near future.

“We have plenty of things down the line that require attention,” he said. “Not aesthetic things, but structural requirements. We need to come up with a long term plan because it’s scary what’s coming.”

Precinct 3 Commissioner Phillip A. Martin said this issue will be a priority for the current court.

“We don’t need to leave this for future Commissioners Courts,” he said.

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