To the surprise of many, Proposition A on the November 6, 2018 ballot passed here in Austin County clearing the way for the construction of the newly proposed justice center. The final vote total was 4,843 FOR and 4,007 AGAINST. A close margin but, still a pass. The proposition for consideration on the ballot read:
“Shall the commissioners court of Austin County, Texas be authorized to issue and sell bonds of the county in the principal amount of not to exceed $17,000,000 (which amount of bonds does not exceed one-fourth (1/4) of the assessed valuation of the real property in the county) for the purpose of the construction, acquisition and equipment of a justice center and an emergency services facility, such bonds to mature serially of otherwise not more than thirty (30) years from their date; and any issue or series of bonds to bear interest at such rate or rates as may be determined within the discretion of the commissioners court, provided that such rate of interest shall not exceed the maximum rate per annum authorized by law at the time of the issuance of any issuer series of the bonds; and shall the commissioners court of the county be authorized to levy and pledge, and cause to be assessed and collected, annual ad valorem taxes on all taxable property in said county sufficient to pay the annual interest and provide a sinking fund to pay bonds at maturity?”
The new center will be a total of three stories and house the jail, sheriff’s office and have room enough for the majority of the courthouse to move into. (For a complete description of the proposed justice center, you can go HERE to read and watch the video presentation.) The idea of the center evolved from the original discussion of how to fix the aging Austin County Jail (which you can watch HERE). The jail has been a recurring problem for the county as well as an added expense with the additional costs associated with inmates being transferred and housed at nearby Fort Bend County until the necessary repairs can be made that satisfy the Texas Jail Commission.
With the prospect of having to borrow money, the discussion turned into the larger discussion of trying to also tackle the problem of the aging Austin County Courthouse. The present courthouse has had issues with leakage for years and had several costly repairs as well as rising upkeep. A few months ago, the problem of mold was discovered in the district attorney’s office leaving some to worry about the risk to employee’s health and leaving the county open to possible civil suits in the future because of it.
The justice center will be the first new construction that Austin County will undertake since the last new building was built back in the early 1980’s. The Justice Center, however, has not been without some controversy with some stating that it is too expensive and others feeling that it is an unnecessary expense.
The passing of the bond will also see the construction of a new emergency services facility for the county.