|County officials, contractors size up old library building|
|Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor|
Dec. 16, 2005 -- Hopkins County officials are moving ahead in a quest for more office space for county offices, touring the city’s old library building Friday morning with representatives of the Paris construction firm of Harrison, Walker and Harper.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Beth Wisenbaker and Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap took Hunter Moore and Brad Archer through the building to get an estimate of what it would cost the county to meet building code requirements and to restore the building to its original appearance.
Wisenbaker said the building was of great historical significance to both the city and county and should be restored, but cost would be a deciding factor.
�Everything I do as a county official is driven by tax dollars, and we want to be very frugal with them,� she said. �We want HWH to give us a ballpark figure as to what they think we would have tied up in it money-wise.�
Elected officials are looking for a way to move the county clerk’s office from the old Houston Elementary School building to the courthouse. The needed room for that move could be made available by putting the county treasurer, auditor, county commissioners and county judge’s offices in the old library.
The current lease agreement between the county and Sulphur Springs Independent School District for use of the old Houston school building is of concern to county commissioners who expressed a need and desire to bring county offices to a more centralized location.
The old library building, Wisenbaker said, was only one of several options that may be available to the county.
�The restoration of this building is one of them,� she said. �It�s all going to be dollar-driven, and we are going to try to make decisions with that in mind.�
Another option could involve the construction of a new building to house some of the now over-crowded offices. That building could be built on county-owned property adjacent to the county’s law enforcement center.
�We�ve got space issues,� Wisenbaker said. �No matter how much the clerks scan documents into computers, they are required by to law to retain the original documents.�
A criminal justice center could be built and might house both the district and county clerks, as well as the tax assessor-collector, offices. County commissioners and administration would remain in the original courthouse building.
�Then take the buildings the county owns currently and sell them,� Wisenbaker said. �This would put them back on the tax rolls.�
Moving some of the county offices into the library building would be a definite positive for Sulphur Springs, according to City Manager Marc Maxwell.
The historic building would have to be almost totally renovated, and Maxwell said the city will want some say in how far the renovation will go.
�That is a building that deserves a full renovation like the courthouse,� he said. �It would dovetail right into the renovation of the downtown area and it is appealing to me for that one thing.�
Whether the city sells the building to the county or enters into a long-term agreement would be determined by the city council.
The city would, most likely, want to build in some stipulations including a specific time frame for renovation work and the level of restoration.
County commissioners hope to have accurate dollar estimates on the cost of renovation and restoration of the old building before going back to the city council to possibly begin negotiations in January.