Employees to move to nearby building while courthouse is renovated

Ofelia Garcia Hunter, The Premont Journal

The old H-E-B building located on First Street could be housing courthouse employees as the courthouse gets a facelift, county officials said.

During the Commissioner's Court special meeting on Friday, the court approved to start the preliminary process of acquiring the property on 506 East First St. The location currently with a vacated building was once the H-E-B grocery store. The first step is to renovate the old building that would cost about $4 to $6 million, county officials said. The building would then house the courthouse departments as the courthouse is being renovated to its original floor plan from 1912, as per the Historic Commission request.

"We would be getting rid of the wings that were built in the early 50s," County Judge L. Arnoldo Saenz said. "We are going to have to house all of our employees somewhere else."

Saenz said once the H-E-B building is ready, most of the departments except for the district and county courts would be permanent at the First Street location.

He said some departments such as the Juvenile Department does not have the space and capacity needed.

"Right now they're in the basement all cramped up," Saenz said.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Zenaida Sanchez said the move would benefit everyone.

"We would still be providing a convenient service," she said.

In other business, the court approved the New Freeport Exemption law in hopes of bringing economic development to the county.

"It would allow the product to be shipped and we won't tax that," Saenz said. "We hope to entice industry to come in and manufacture here."

Also the court approved transferring funds of the Road and Bridge and General fund totaling $110,000 to the Road and Bridge Precinct 1 fund as a reimbursement for seal coating of roads at the fairgrounds.

The court approved vision insurance for county employees and an increase of stipend for group health coverage for county employee's dependents effective Jan. 1, 2008. They approved funding for three months for La Paloma Emergency Medical Services and a court cost fee schedule for 2008.