Ambitious plan for downtown square unveiled today
By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor
Aug 21, 2007 - A new plan that would remake the courthouse square was unveiled during a meeting of the Hopkins County Commissioners Court today, and it's a doozy.
"It's forward thinking. It's progressive," acknowledged Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap after the presentation, calling the plan "revolutionary."
The proposal is a mix of ideas from the Veterans Memorial Committee, city planners, and others.
"We'll all have to come together for it to succeed," said Don Roundtree, a member of the Veterans Memorial Committee's design committee. "But with the right kind of leadership, we think we can get this done."
Following a presentation by the Veterans Memorial Committee in June, Sulphur Springs City Council members voted to direct the city manager and staff to work to support the plans to build a memorial to Hopkins County service men and women at the Heritage Park area on the downtown square.
Clayton McGraw, chairman of the executive board of the Hopkins County Veterans Memorial Project, said local veterans and others had talked for about a year about building a memorial wall, but they got moving after Staff Sgt. Michael "Chad" Lloyd, the 24-year-old son of Jimmy and Dena Lloyd of Sulphur Springs, was killed in combat in Iraq.
The original idea was a memorial wall with the names of both Hopkins County citizens who served their country as well as those who are buried in Hopkins County. But over time, the ideas for the project have grown. With the help Audley Moore Construction and architect Charles Jones, they have since developed a "master plan" for the square to work in conjunction with the city's ideas for revitalizing downtown.
The "vision" for the square and the veterans memorial is ambitious, to say the least. It would leave only the western parking area for parking, with the rest of the space covered in greenways, fountains, and a stage large enough for a symphony orchestra. The veterans memorial which would be located at the southeast section of the square.
Parking would take on a different look, with about 70 spaces downtown as opposed to the current 108, according to architect Charles Jones.
Roundtree said they plan to put up drawings of the plan in the courthouse and other places so the general public could see for themselves what is being proposed.
"I might change — it's our first effort," he said. "And we'd like public comment.
"It could grow or change as time goes on."
The county judge voiced concerns about parking for county employees as well as the flow of traffic around the square, saying county commissioners needed time to "digest" the plan and discuss it with city officials and explore funding options.
"I think you've got a good plan. It just needs to be revised," Millsap said.
Another concern for the county officials was the location of the mechanical facilities for the courthouse.
"I believe in the vision," Precinct 1 Commissioner Beth Wisenbaker said, but added she wanted to make sure the planners talked with Architexas architects, the people who mapped out the courthouse's renovation earlier in the decade after the county received some $4 million in grant money to restore the building. She explained the plans could come in conflict with some of the requirements that came with the grant from the Texas Historical Commission.
"When we got that money, it came with strings," Wisenbaker explained.
Joe Moore of Audley Moore Construction, however, pointed out that the group was aware that there will be problems, quoting Abraham Lincoln: "The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion."
"All we need to do is have the vision, and the solutions will be found," Moore said.