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2009-11-12 digital edition

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2009-11-12 / Front Page

Lee County Courthouse Subject of Austin News

Last week, Austin’s KXAN television news covered the problems with the structure of our newly renovated Lee County Courthouse, which has been a major concern to County officials and residents. Our Courthouse, built in 1899, went through a major restoration and renovation in 2003 to the tune of $4.5 million, of which the Lee County Taxpayers paid about $2 million.

KXAN reporter Nanci Wilson visited the Courthouse and took pictures of many of the existing cracks and gaps in the structure. Her report showed that at some places, one could put their whole arm in the cracks (which is exactly what so many County officials have been talking about).

She also did an extensive interview with County Judge Paul Fischer.

Judge Fischer reiterated to Wilson, “One thing everyone agrees on is that the building is safe. This was the first thing I wanted to know from the engineers we hired to help us rectify the problem.”

The Lee County Commissioners were supposed to hear from the county’s engineering firm this past Monday; however, the expected presentation, by Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., of the updated Master Plan for the Courthouse was delayed until this coming Thursday. This updating is all a part of getting things in order so the County can apply for emergency grant funds from the State Historical Commission for continuing needed repairs to the Courthouse.

According to a report from the engineers made to the County last August, the damage to the building is an ongoing problem that has been aggravated by this year’s drought; however, their report said that some of the things that were done during the renovation also are contributing to the damage. A significant part of the foundation footing was removed during the renovation in order to lower the basement floor and this has contributed to the damage to the historic structure.

Under questioning by the Court last August, the engineers indicated that ‘fixes’ to these problems could easily cost $750,000 or more for the drainage and foundation work alone. Structural and interior repair work could cost at least as much as the drainage repair, and, according to the engineers, should not be undertaken for at least a year or more after determining that the foundation repairs are successful.

During the examination of the Courthouse, the engineering firm took surveys and installed instrumentation to monitor any additional movement of the structure to determine how well the new repairs are working.

If you missed the KXAN story, you can still go to their website (www.kxan.com) and see the entire report and video.

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