Angelina Co. J.P. worries commissioners will close Zavalla courthouse

J.P. Claude Marshall, Jr. Pct. 4
J.P. Claude Marshall, Jr. Pct. 4

ZAVALLA, TX (KTRE) - The south end of Angelina County isn't happy right now. They feel county leaders are about to make a bad decision concerning their Justice of Peace Precinct Four.

County leaders are working on a plan that would combine the precinct with precincts three and five.

Claude Marshall, Jr. is a fourth term Justice of the Peace in Angelina County's Precinct Four.

"The J.P. Courts are set-up as a service to the tax-paying' people. Not a money-making entity," said Marshall.

If it's up to commissioners, his Zavalla courthouse will probably be shut down in the county's ongoing redistricting process.  Based on population size, the state only requires Angelina County to have a minimum of four J.P./Constable precincts.

"I've been going to all the meetings, and so far it doesn't look good," said Marshall.

County leaders say they're losing money on the extra J.P. court, and that it has the lowest demand for service.

"This courthouse also serves as a tax office and a place where you can get license tags," said Marshall.

The possible closure has been the talk of the tiny town especially during lunch hour at the cafe.

"This courthouse means a lot to these people. It's been here for years, why get rid of it now?" said Debbie Johnson, Zavalla resident.

The people in Zavalla say they would rather take the back-roads to this courthouse instead of taking what they consider a dangerous drive down highway 69.

"We've had more wrecks on that highway that can count," said Johnson.

No one understands that better than J.P. Marshall who has the unfortunate task of confirming deaths in his precinct.

"I've pronounced a lot of people dead on that highway here lately," said Marshall.

Lifelong resident Sue Morrell eats lunch with her grand kids, and expresses how all the possible courthouse closure makes the south-end feel.

"It's like we're forgotten down here. As long as its Diboll or Hudson - everything's fine," said Morrell.

J.P. Marshall believes commissioners should keep his court open especially for the older folks.

"They can come here and feel safe. If you have to get out on highway 69 in the morning it's dangerous," said Marshall.

County Judge Wes Suiter says if they decide to dissolve the J.P./Constable precinct four the county would save more than a million dollars over a 10 year span.

Suiter also says if the courthouse closes they do plan to send someone to Zavalla weekly, to take care of taxes and vehicle registrations.

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