Victoria County weighs ways to expand courtrooms

The old fire station is a contender in the Victoria County commissioners’ search to find more courtroom space.

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Crowded judges could see some extra space if Victoria County commissioners move forward with a plan to expand courtrooms.

County Judge Don Pozzi said the space issue has been a priority for years. The county has four courtrooms and a multi-use room for eight judges.

The court is expected to vote on a $20,000 courtroom expansion study by architect Rawley McCoy at its weekly meeting Tuesday.

The court discussed possible future capital improvements during a workshop on Wednesday.

The court has six options to consider including renovating two downtown historic buildings.

One plan is to add a floor to the 1967 courthouse, 115 N. Bridge St. While it would see little resistance from the Texas Historical Commission, construction would be difficult and could encounter wind limitations, according to information from the county.

Pozzi said his ideal solution is to build a new facility on the courthouse block. However, the state historical commission would likely oppose that because a building there could obstruct the view of the 1892 courthouse.

McCoy will also study whether it is viable to renovate the old fire station at the corner of Forrest and Glass streets, or the jail, at the corner of Constitution and Glass streets.

The study will likely be completed by July, when the commissioners start ironing out the budget and figuring out how to finance the construction.

"If we're going to expand the courtrooms, the fire station is one of my choices," said Commissioner Gary Burns.

Pozzi said he wants to get the project started in 2014 or 2015.

McCoy brought up the Corpus Christi courthouse that has fallen into disrepair. Because that courthouse, and Victoria County's old jail and firehouse are considered historic buildings, the county cannot tear them down, McCoy said.

"We'll have to look at doing something with those buildings sooner or later," Pozzi said.

Commissioner Kevin Janak said he does not want to see the building rot.

"It's good news that we can't tear that building down," he said. "I love that building."

However, the restrictions imposed by the state could play a crucial role in whether the renovation happens.

"We're not looking at them with any kind of favoritism," McCoy said. "You almost need to start thinking what can we do with those buildings to give them some sort of life or purpose."

The longer the county waits, the more the buildings, which have lead paint and asbestos, will fall into disrepair, he said.

"Then when you do decide to do something with them, it's going to cost more money," McCoy said.

The other options include a new site construction and adding to the Bridge Street Annex Building. However, with a new site there are concerns about security, personnel and equipment, as well as access to the courthouse. Adding to the annex building could also pose security concerns.

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