GATESVILLE — Coryell County commissioners this week got their first look at a long-term needs-assessment plan for relocating county and district offices.
Architects Keith Bailey and David Wright of the Waco firm of RBDR recommended an eight-step strategy for meeting the county’s present and future facilities needs, starting with moving several county offices into the Extraco Bank building at 800 Main St.
The county agreed to buy the building and occupy 11,117 square feet, leasing back 4,430 square feet to Extraco, so the financial institution can continue banking operations.
Commissioners agreed to borrow $759,000 for the bank deal and is set to close on the property in June.
Bailey and Wright recommended moving the offices of the county judge, tax assessor/collector, auditor, treasurer, four commissioners, the state game warden and Department of Public Safety personnel into the Extraco building.
Vacating the current offices of the county judge, auditor and treasurer would free space in the courthouse for use by adult probation, the district clerk and the county clerk, the architects said.
The firm recommended an independent security consultant be retained to do a complete study of security needs for all county locations.
Once vacated, the former tax office in the county annex would be renovated into a new home for justices of the peace and constables, according to a drafted plan. It might free up more space for expansion of the district attorney’s office in the annex.
The planning document calls for construction of a new county court-at-law building on vacant property at 420 E. Main St. — the old Foxworth-Galbraith lumber yard site — a block from the old courthouse.
The new building would become the home of the county clerk and “other strictly county functions” to leave the old courthouse for use by the 52nd District Court, the plan stated.
“Major renovations” to the county annex on Second Street in Copperas Cove are also part of the draft plan.
The last of the firm’s recommendations was to renovate the existing courthouse built in 1898.
“The courthouse is the hardest egg to crack,” Bailey said.
“Because of its age, it is not very efficient” and would be expensive to modernize and secure.”
Commissioner Jack Wall said the old building may eventually be “a courthouse in name only,” and the district court may need to be part of the new building.
Commissioner Daren Moore, however, said he would “hate to see the district court move out of the courthouse” because of its historical significance.
“The courtroom actually works pretty well,” former District Judge Phillip Zeigler said to commissioners. “I cannot see us building a new courtroom of that size and that magnificence.”
The old courtroom “needs to be maintained as a working space,” Zeigler said.
County Judge John Firth asked each of the commissioners to submit their questions and suggestions for the final plan to the architects by next week.