Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr.

Orange Grove Journal

Jim Wells County Commissioners went into closed session for an hour to discuss authorizing County Judge L. Arnoldo Saenz to purchase the old H-E-B building at 506 E. First Street for the purposes of courthouse expansion.

After one hour of deliberations on the property and in consultation with assistant county attorney Linda Flores Resendez, the court reconvened and tabled the issue.

Saenz said the county would continue negotiations on the property with landowner Steven Hahn.

One issue the county will be negotiating is the price, Saenz said, but the county is also taking this time to go back and review a feasibility study on the project.

“The original deadline has passed, and we’re moving the timeline forward,” Saenz said. “We made a counter offer, and had until March 28 to respond, so now we’re extending the time line a little further.”

The negotiated property includes the building and the parking lot on the west side of the property. The two small offices on the south side of the property are not part of the property negotiations, Saenz said.

Saenz said the county will be looking at the possibility of parking across the street in the vacant lot to the north of the property, but he feels there should be adequate parking on the west side of Hahn’s property, that parking across the street shouldn’t be necessary.

“I think we will have plenty of parking, since half our employees will still be over here (courthouse) utilizing this parking lot, and we’ll have enough for the public over there,” Saenz said.

Jim Wells County Commissioner Ventura Garcia owns the vacant property across the street from the old H-E-B building, Saenz said.

He purchased the property three years prior to running for county commissioner, Saenz said. Garcia was present during the closed session meeting, and Saenz said afterward that parking across the street was not discussed or brought up during the meeting.

Saenz did list several offices that will be moved to the new location, should he be given approval by the court to move forward on the property purchase. The District Court, County Court and both the District and County Clerk offices will remain at the Jim Wells County Courthouse site.

Offices that will be making the move, according to Saenz are the JWC Tax Assessor Collector’s office, Justice of the Peace Precinct 1, JWC Treasure’s Office, County Auditor’s office, the Welfare Department and the Elections Administrator’s office.