2010-04-01 / Front Page

Emergency Stabilization Begins on Courthouse

The Emergency Stabilization of the Lee County Courthouse began last week when the Lee County Commissioners approved a Resolution supporting the effort, as part of the requirements set forth in the grant of $804,233 from the State of Texas and the Texas Historical Commission. Commissioners also approved a Funding Agreement for the project for the administration of grant funds and they approved a Grant of Easement between the Texas Historical Commission, an agency of the State of Texas, and Lee County, Texas.

Commissioners appointed a Courthouse Preservation Committee consisting of Judge Paul E Fischer, Commissioner Doug Hartfield , County Attorney Martin Placke, County Auditor Maxine Siegmund, and Lee County Judge Administrative Assistant Hilary Kieschnick.

The work is scheduled to begin this month with a civil survey by the engineering firm and expected to be completed in April 2011. In May 2012, a one-year follow-up inspection by all parties will be held, at which time a decision will be made to proceed with the reconstruction of the interior finishes.

The conditions of receiving this emergency grant include committing matching funds of slightly more than $255,000, which must be provided by the County in the form of actual funds or ‘in kind’ efforts. The County has already spent an estimated $120,000 to investigate and fix the problems, most of which will count toward this matching requirement.

The emergency repairs are required due to damages that have occurred over the past several years, since a major restoration/ renovation of the Courthouse took place in 2003. The cost of restoration totaled an estimated $4.5 million, $2 million of which came directly from the taxpayers, and since then the building has suffered serious structural problems, including huge cracks in the walls and floors, some large enough to put one’s arm in.

The reasons for the building’s deterioration are still up in the air, but according to a report from the County engineers, Wiss, Janey, Elstner Associates, Inc., the damage to the building has been aggravated by the past years’ drought; however, they went on to say 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, which has contributed to the damage of the historic structure.

Receipt of this grant is also conditional on meeting some strict time lines concerning the scope of work, the bidding process, the bid awarding and more. Judge Fischer said, “While this is a major step, it is only the first one necessary to correct earlier inadequate activity and to finally have the Courthouse restored correctly.”

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