Courthouse restoration: Responses submitted to seven questions
Aug 18, 2011 | 1493 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Karnes Countywide submitted a list of seven questions to Karnes County citizens who have taken a public stance on the issue of courthouse restoration. The people who were asked to submit responses to the questions on the side opposed to existing courthouse restoration plans and efforts, declined to comment on the issue at this time. Karnes County Historical Commission Chairman Truett Lee Hunt, however, sent the following response to the seven questions that were asked. Below are his responses.

1) What is your proposal for the future of the courthouse in Karnes County?

As Chair of Karnes Historical Commission, I am of the opinion that a historical renovated Courthouse will be a source of pride to the citizens of the County. The Karnes Historical Commission knows renovating the historic Courthouse will demonstrate the commitment to the County citizens, by the elected officials and enhance the potential for economic growth.

In Feb 2005, Karnes County hired a Structural Engineering Firm from San Antonio, WSC, Inc., to inspect, review and recommend options to save the courthouse from continuous damage. The easiest and strongest recommendation was determined to be demolishing the southwest addition.

Desiring to save Karnes County money, our local Historical Commission worked with Commissioners Court in applying for a Texas Courthouse Preservation Grant for outside funding to assist in the cost of saving the building. With the most cost effective and safest option to move forward in repairing and restoring the building-our historical commission stands behind the specialists’ strongest recommendation to remove the addition. We were awarded a THC grant which pays two-thirds of the costs. It makes good business sense to do it with grant money.

Karnes Historical Commission supports removing the additions, to stabilize the building by reinforcing inadequate foundations, re-install historic masonry walls to strengthen the walls, and replace horizontal bracing

2) How much will it cost and what is the source of the estimate?

Within the application process for Round VI Preservation Grant, the hired firm of Fisher-Heck Architects compiled the estimated project budget using 2010 construction costs.

TOTAL (Allowable) PROJECT COSTS= $8,352,923.

3) What happens to the old courthouse in this plan?

The three-story building dominates its site and downtown Karnes City, projecting a historic landmark appearance from a long distance into the countryside. With proper care, the professional restoration contractors will return the courthouse’s appearance c.1920, including removal of additions, reconstruction of clock tower, reconstruction of conical tops of the four turrets, reconstruction of two high-pitched Second Empire mansards, reinstallation of slate roof, restoration of exterior brick facades with stone belt courses, and replacement of metal windows and doors with appropriate wooden units. The Courthouse will continue to be the seat of County Judicial and administrative authority. The restored courthouse will include District Court and its jury room on the second floor. The District Clerk will office on the third floor. The courthouse will also include Commissioner’s Court in a space thought to be original on the ground floor. The County Judge and County Attorney will office on ground floor.

4) What makes your plan the best path for Karnes County citizens?

Complete restoration is the result of years-long partnerships between Fisher & Heck Architects, WSC Structural Engineers and serial elected officials of Karnes County.

Structural Engineer, Mr. Lawrence Calvetti of WSC has monitored the distressed courthouse for years, and architects Annie Sauser and Lewis Fisher, of Fisher & Heck have worked on the county’s repair & restoration plans.

These professional companies have worked with three County Judges and their Commissioners on projects related to the repair & complete restoration.

They submitted four options, including the one both companies felt was the best viable option. From the four options, Commissioners Court voted to move forward on the only recommended option: removal of the additions. This is the option which received grant monies from Texas Historical Commission in 2010. Karnes Historical Commission reports this is the best path for the citizen’s to support as it is thoroughly investigated, the least costly, and safest option.

5) What do you see as problematic in the other side’s proposal?

The problem(s) with the other side’s proposal has been the lack of an alternate proposal. The opposing group against restoration has not demonstrated a plan. Since 2005 there are reports, research and impartial investigation which compiled the proposal the Karnes County Historical Commission supports.

The citizens of Karnes County and historical groups have continued to support the most cost effective proposal. The community wants elected officials to comply with deadlines and contracts, believing this plan is the most economical and safest.

Texas Historical Commission did not create the proposal; they have only agreed to give State money to execute the plan. The Karnes Historical groups did not create the plan. We support the most viable option which has been presented with hard numbers, investigative reports and objective data collected by architects and engineers that the County officials had hired.

6) Do you think there is some misconceptions about your plan out there and what are they?

Misconceptions are voiced daily by employees at a local radio station. Constant changes reflect on the inability to work their plan. We prove a point and they change the plan. The message? Well, lately, they support our officials to pay almost $25,000, to an Austin legal firm on advice to make the restoration go away.

They just don’t have a plan. Why be AGAINST good commerce decisions? The restoration’s plan saves Karnes County a lot of money. Calmly, we take time to explain using the restoration grant to pay for two thirds of the costs makes financial sense to us. It’s simply good business to stand behind signed contracts. It is plainly smart business to use grant money to pay for large projects. We’re business people and this is a financial win for the community.

If there is a safer and less costly way to do the project, it has not been revealed by those who oppose the proposal.

7) How would your plan be financed and completed?

$300,000 matching funds for Phase I Grant has been in the budget, carried forward over two fiscal years. The community is observing the present budget workshops to make certain the $300,000 which had been set aside for this match, will be on the appropriate 2012 budget line item.

Karnes ’ present monthly Sales Tax revenue is well over $200,000.00, equal to the Annual 2006 Sales Tax revenue. Final payment for purchasing land given to build Connally Unit is in 2012. County officials will continue to make good business decisions, reinvesting in the buildings and infrastructure of the county.

The past eight months has been very busy in trying to move forward with the restoration contracts. Fundraising has been placed on HOLD until the elected officials move forward. At that time, private fundraising for Phase II will resume for the cash contribution to add to the upcoming County matching funds.

Karnes County Historical Commission Chairman Truett Lee Hunt
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