Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

December 8, 2012

Courthouse restoration back on agenda

County could vote on project agreement with state

By Bob Belcher
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — The proposed renovation of the Navarro County Courthouse faces an important vote Monday.

If commissioners don’t approve an agreement with the Texas Historical Commission Monday — it is the final item on the agenda — then County Judge H.M. Davenport Jr. will make a trip to Austin Tuesday to explain his request for an extension on signing the agreement.

Commissioners tabled action on the THC agreement, an architect’s agreement, and the hiring of a financial advisor for the project at its last meeting on Nov. 26, stating the need for more information before deciding to go forward with the project, one that would cost the county at least $5.1 million of its own money plus the costs of temporarily relocating courthouse operations, and the cost of a new permanent annex, should one be required. The state has pledged $4.5 million, in addition to a $500,000 planning grant that’s already been used.

Davenport said he requested an extension from the Texas Historic Commission after last Monday’s action by the court tabling the item. He said he was told if the county did not approve the funding agreement on Dec. 10, he would need to meet with them in Austin on Dec. 11 to explain why the county needs more time.

“We still have information we need to gather,” Davenport said Friday. Among that information — possible donations from the public to help fund the project, and more details for commissioners on a possible permanent annex for some courthouse operations.

“There are still issues to be worked out regarding that real estate,” he said Friday. He said the proposed permanent annex is an existing building, but more work and negotiations are needed before any deal could be finalized.

With the designs the county has looked at, not all county operations could return to the courthouse, and some offices would have to be relocated to a new annex after the restoration project

Also on the table for commissioners in regards to the project — the hiring of a financial advisor to assist the county with the issuance of certificates of obligation to help fund the county’s share of the costs, and an agreement with the firm 1113 Architects, the firm that’s done all the planning work thus far. Approving the architect’s agreement would allow the county to go forward with a formal bidding process to get a better idea of what the costs will be — something commissioners have said is a reason for the delay, not knowing the firm costs of the work and what the county is committing itself to financially.

Also looming in the project is the possibility of a petition calling for a public vote on the issuance of any bonds to fund the project, a possibility suggested by Bobby Vickery of Frost. Vickery said the public should have a voice in deciding whether or not the county should issue the debt.

Such a petition would require signatures of 5 percent of the approximately 27,000 registered voters in the county, or about 1,300 signatures. A petition could not be filed until the county advertises its intent to issue the certificates of obligation.

The three agenda items regarding the restoration project — the funding agreement, the architect’s agreement and the hiring of a financial advisor — are at the end of Monday’s agenda.

Among other agenda items for the court on Monday: The consideration of a burn ban; the Tax report from Russell Hudson; Treasurer’s report from Frank Hull; presentations to Sheriff Les Cotton and Pct. 1 Commissioner Kit Herrington; striking off property to the city of Corsicana; an extended warranty for JP computers; report on Eminent Domain authority; allowing the sheriff’s office to accept fees from towed vehicles when up for sale; an agreement for dialysis treatment for an inmate in the jail; county auditor’s report from Kathy Hollomon; auditor’s report on the examination of the Tax Assessor/Collector’s office; accepting a $5,000 grant from USDA for flood control; and an wireless service agreement for the victim’s coordinator.

A public forum time is held at the beginning of each commissioners meeting to allow members of the public to address the court.

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Bob Belcher may be reached by email at belcher@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “Soundoff” on this story? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com.