Courthouse renovations complete
Last updated 9/2/2023 at 1:16pm
After nine years and $29 million, the Curry County Courthouse renovations are complete.
The Curry County Commission and County Manager Lance Pyle introduced the space to the community Thursday at a ribbon cutting and open house.
"This was part of a long-term plan, which required a lot of patience and had its fair share of frustrations along the way," Pyle said in his opening statements.
Pyle then went on to discuss some of those frustrations, among them that the county was spending over $1 million a year to house detainees in Texas counties.
There were also major infrastructure issues with the detention center. An old fitness center turned into temporary housing for detainees until something could be done.
County offices, the courts and the district attorney's office ran out of space, Pyle said.
"We had to relocate offices of the district attorney and county offices to other locations to be able to address the needs and accommodate for the growth of the courts and sheriff," Pyle said.
First, Pyle said the county leased the top floor at the post office at 417 Gidding for over $100,000 a year for the district attorney's office. Then, the county borrowed the funds and bought the entire building and now leases space to the United States Postal Service.
The first funding the county received for expansion was in 2014. Pyle provided a list of each milestone and when it was completed:
• Renovated and constructed an addition onto 417 Gidding – county offices and commission chambers – completed August 2016
• Detention center addition and renovation – Completed August 2020
• Parking – purchased the properties and constructed a parking lot on Main Street between Eighth and Ninth streets – Completed August 2020
• Parking – purchased the property and constructed a parking lot at corner of Seventh and Mitchell streets – Completed March 2023
"This completes a nine-year plan and investment into our downtown and Curry County community of over $29 million and another $14 million (for a new magistrate court building) that will be complete late 2024 to early 2025," Pyle said. Those investments will bring the total to over $43 million.
Discussion for the county facility renovations began in earnest in 2008 after eight violent jail inmates cut a hole through the jail's roof and escaped. All of the escapees were eventually captured, but that incident and other jail escapes – involving 16 inmates between 2002 and 2013 – prompted public officials to seek renovations to the detention center and other county facilities.
Three times between 2010 and 2013, voters rejected county proposals to renovate the jail and courthouse.
Then in 2014, county commissioners increased sales taxes to help fund the renovations.
SDV Construction was the contractor for the project, and Paul Farless, the president and CEO explained what challenges his team had to face in the process.
"Remodels are historically difficult in and of themselves, but especially when the host building is as historic as this one, which was constructed in 1936," Farless said.
SDV Construction had to deal with low floor to floor heights that offered limited space, a huge chunk of concrete that was discovered in the basement, outdated plumbing and mechanical systems among other challenges.
Farless said he was proud to have finished the project at the time he had promised the commission at previous meetings.
"On July 5 of this year, we finished, and we finished on time," Farless said.
District Judge Donna Mowrer provided some historical background on the courthouse, and explained how that history will be implemented into the new addition.
"Eventually, we'll have all the photographs that the old courtrooms have on the walls and on the walls of those courtrooms are the photos of every judge from the Ninth Judicial District," Mowrer said. "These are the people that started this process and led us to where we are today."
Mowrer said the new addition will provide three jury-ready courtrooms and four hearing rooms for the five district judges and a domestic relations hearing officer.
Curry County Sheriff Mike Reeves and Commission Chairman Rob Thornton also expressed their gratitude to those who helped complete the project.
"We hope that it's very functional and it's usable for the next 50 years," Thornton said in closing.