Houston Co. Judge applying for grant to fund courthouse repairs

CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) - Funding for areas across the state was a major issue at the summer's legislative session and now many historic courthouses across the state, including the one in Houston County, are looking for ways to fund repairs.

Earlier this week visitors to the courthouse were given a rude welcome, when the heating system failed.

"There are concrete walls, so there is really no heat being held in," Tom Streetman, vice chairman of the Houston County Historical Commission said. "It was very cold and very uncomfortable."

The building sits across from County Judge Erin Ford's office. Ford said repairs are usually funded by the state's courthouse preservation fund, but money is a little hard to come by after state legislators cut funding in the summer.

Funding for historical courthouses from 2014-15 has dropped to only $4.2 million.

"This means a significant reduction in funding and a temporary setback for the remaining 75 counties that currently qualify to receive major funding," said officials with the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Society.

"I can appreciate why the legislature would cut the budget, but it still makes it difficult for us."

State Representative Trent Ashby said he remembered representatives from Houston County voicing their concerns to him while he was in Austin, but ultimately other areas took priority.

"I understand and admire them for their concern," Ashby said. "Ultimately, the legislature put money to areas that really needed the improvements."

Removing mildew on the outside walls, repairing the roof and elevator will be a little more difficult.

Ford's plan is to receive a grant known as the Round VIII Grant. The grant will provide the extra funds needed to revitalize the building.

Ford estimates that all the repairs on the courthouse could costs around $500,000. The maximum amount of funding the county could receive through the program is $450,000. To get the maximum amount of funding, Judge Ford and the county commissioners would have to approve the matching of $225,000.

Ford does not see that as a plausible idea.

"The roof upgrade would be around $100,000 which we could manage a lot easier with a 50-50 split," Ford said.

Houston County Historical Commission Chairman Donnita Patrick traveled to Austin in the summer to lobby for the courthouse funding, and says the loss of funding hurts the historical site.

"It would be a loss for Houston County and the surrounding areas because we have such a vast history here," Patrick said. "If anybody can do it, Judge Ford and the commissioners will do it."

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