If you're passing by the county courtroom at the Jim Wells County Courthouse, you'll see it's under construction and has been for several weeks now.
The county courtroom reconfiguration project was approved by the JWC Commissioners' Court on June 18, 2018. The changes to the courtroom were in response to requests made by the Court and the Coastal Bend Bar Association to find a permanent location for the County Court-at-Law (CCL) that was established January 2015.
County Court-at-Law Judge Michael Garcia has been sharing the District Courtroom on the second floor and the current county courtroom.
The county had several options to comply with the request such as purchasing an off-site building or constructing a new building; both expensive.
"The consensus was to reconfigure existing rooms within the courthouse to maximize efficient use of space for personnel, litigants and the general public," said County Judge Pete Trevino.
The project was put out for bids and the contract was awarded to Franco Construction with an original price of $56,000 for construction plus $24,000 for carpet, seating, technical and upgrades, Trevino stated.
Funding for the project comes from construction bonds issued in 2008.
The new layout for the courtroom is being "reversed" in order to have the Judge's bench and jury box located on the east side. There will be an adjoining rooms for jury deliberations and the judge's chambers.
In addition, the CCL only requires a six-person jury allowing the extra space to be used for more public seating.
To save money, some of the existing technical equipment will be reused upon the completion of the project. Upgrades include wireless capability and monitors on each wall to ensure visibility from any direction when video or photographic evidence is presented.
The project is scheduled to be completed by mid-September.