Courthouse officially done; what will be next?
Crowded jail, population growth may mean more building in future

Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Feb. 6, 2004 -- After receiving final approval earlier this week, the restoration of Hopkins County's historic courthouse is complete.

The county received a check for $371,966 from the Texas Historical Commission Tuesday morning as the final installment of the more than $4 million in grant funds set aside by the state to preserve the county's venerated seat of government.

County Commissioner Beth Wisenbaker, who was the county's primary liaison with the state and architects, was in Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap's office when the check arrived.

"I am so excited. That is wonderful. Finished, complete, money in the bank - it just doesn't get any better than that, does it?" Wisenbaker said. "This is awesome."

The county began work to restore the courthouse in 2000 after a successful application for a part of the money set aside by the state two years earlier for courthouse restoration.

After the Texas Legislature appropriated $50 million in 1999 for courthouse restorations, 75 counties made application for money, but only 16 were funded.

Hopkins County's application was approved for $3.7 million in funding, the second-highest amount in the state, and more was to come later.

"That was the first round of money," Millsap said. "Then there was a second round of money, and we were able to get some of that, ... so we got almost $4 million to do this project."

That money was matched by another $1.3 million which came from local service clubs and organizations, as well as private donations.

The renovation project required more than two and a half years for completion. Much of the extra time the project required was blamed on several problems associated with the ancient structure.

Now that the project is complete and paid for, county commissioners will be turning their attention to other needs of a growing county - including a shortage of space in the county jail.

The detention facility is certified to house about 95 prisoners, but has exceeded that limit several times in recent months.

A $1.4 million expansion of the jail was completed in January 1999 to ease overcrowding at the facility, which previously was rated to only hold 48 prisoners.

"This is an issue - the jail expansion - that we are going to have to look at before the Texas Commission on Jail Standards comes down on us like they have in the past," the judge said. "The commissioners and I will discuss it with the sheriff and see what is adequate and what we can do."

Millsap said growth in the county is going to mandate more and larger county government facilities to go along with a need for more parking around the downtown square.

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