Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

March 27, 2013

Back to the Future:

County hears courthouse renovation/restoration spiels


Mineral Wells Index

— By CHRIS AGEE

Palo Pinto County Commissioners heard two presentations during Monday's session, both detailing services designed to renovate and restore the historic Palo Pinto County Courthouse.

Justin Gilmore of Level 5 Design Group explained he met with two commissioners and discussed electrical modifications, such as adding an emergency generator backup system to the building.

"We do a lot of county and municipal work," Gilmore said of the firm, noting the process, if approved, would be broken down into two phases.

The first step would be choosing someone to conduct an analysis determining the actual electrical needs of the courthouse. He explained contracts for such services must be first based on the qualifications of the prospective candidate and a price for the project can be negotiated later.

Commissioners can reject any fee they feel is unreasonable, Gilmore added, and return to the selection process.

Judge David Nicklas suggested a request for qualifications be added to the next regular court agenda and commissioners did not act on the item Monday.

Another firm, Architexas, was represented Monday and two principles with the firm presented a plan of action to renovate the courthouse using funds from the Texas Historical Commission Courthouse Preservation Program.

"Our firm specializes in historical preservation primarily," said Craig Melde.

Stanley Graves explained that expertise has often been used to bring state courthouses back to their former condition.

"Texas has a unique collection of courthouses," he said, noting many were demolished during the 1950s and 1960s before a law was passed requiring the Texas Historical Commission be notified prior to demolishing or selling a county courthouse.

Graves noted the law does not apply to upkeep, however.

During a survey of the 50 oldest courthouses in the state, he said his firm found many were in terrible condition. Then-Gov. George Bush and the state legislature used the report in creating the Courthouse Preservation Program.

Since that time, Graves said Architexas has completed master plans or led restoration projects for dozens of courthouses and has been the leading firm for such projects throughout the state.

He explained the program further, noting the state pays for 85 percent of the cost while the county is responsible for the remainder. The county would likely contribute somewhere around $40,000, he explained, though the program allows the master planning costs and prior capital expenses to be included in that sum.

During a slideshow of previous projects Architexas has led, Graves explained the restorations seek to find original colors and design cues, resulting in historic structures upgraded to existing standards and technologies.

"We go in and accurately restore [the courthouse] to its original appearance," Melde said.

Should commissioners decide to move forward, Graves suggested beginning soon.

He said the state legislature will release funding for the next year of the program in May and the deadline for master plans to be considered is in October. He said the master planning process is complex, noting the looming deadline can still be met if the county decides to move forward soon.

Once a master plan is approved, the county can apply next year and be among those competing for a project award.

"Our firm has been successful in making the case for past projects," Graves said.

Commissioners took no action on either presentation during Monday's meeting.