Victoria County Commissioners were pleased to learn Monday that a courtroom expansion a decade in the works will to cost a fraction of what they initially thought it would.

The architectural firm PGAL estimates it will cost $365,000 to transform the county treasurer’s former office into the commissioners’ weekly meeting space. This move will free up the existing commissioners’ courtroom for a court-at-law judge courtroom.

County Judge Ben Zeller compared this to how the county planned to address a lack of space in 2014. At the time, it was considering renovating the old fire station at the corner of Forrest and Glass streets at a cost of about $2.5 million. Officials said the most expensive part of that project was connecting the station to the courthouse via a tunnel, while the most expensive part of this project is taking out a column that obstructs the public’s view of the commissioners.

Despite the savings, Commissioner Gary Burns urged the firm to look for more savings.

“Let’s try to keep that down because we only use that for two hours once a week,” he said of the space.

Burns and Commissioner Kevin Janak also asked the firm to reach out to the district and court-at-law judges to see if they were happy with the floor plan and renderings.

Those showed, among other things, 300 additional square feet and a new audiovisual system, but there was a concern that the space wouldn’t work if the judges needed it to conduct hearings.

“I really don’t see anything in there that could be improved upon. Obviously, commissioners’ court uses this every week, so we want to make sure that it’s primarily suited for our purposes, but those couple of times when it’s needed for other courts, we can certainly ensure that a table could be brought in there for those other needs,” Zeller said.

Joyce Dean, the county’s director of administrative services, said the county’s facility manager, Kelly Hubert, would serve as the contractor for the project and subcontractors would work on the project bit by bit.

Officials attributed some of the expected savings to Citizens Medical Center’s construction crew, which may work on the expansion project on top of its regular duties. For that reason, it could take four months to complete.

Jessica Priest reports on the environment and Calhoun County for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at jpriest@vicad.com or 361-580-6521.

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Former Environment/Investigations Reporter

Jessica Priest worked for the Victoria Advocate from August 2012-September 2019, first as the courts reporter and then as the environment/investigations reporter. Read her work now at www.jessicapriest.me.

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