The construction of the “Austin County Justice Center” as it is now being called continued last week at commissioner’s court. As previously reported, discussions about issues plaguing the the current Austin County Jail and Sheriff’s office had turned to include the aging courthouse. Burns Architecture was asked to begin gathering information on a solution to solve both problems. The result was to create a facility that would encompass the needs of the jail and the courthouse in one multi-level facility. Burns Architecture, LLC started by sending a questionnaire to the various departments of the county to determine their needs. As the questionnaires were returned and interviews with heads of departments and staff were conducted, the Justice Center began to take shape. We are putting time stamps of the video below in each description section to allow you to jump to that section directly and hear exactly what the plans will entail.
We are providing the architectural drawings below that are being reviewed in the video that were kindly provided to us by Burns Architecture, LLC.
(00:03:44 to 00:07:57 of the video) The facility begins with a large parking area. The firm figured that there would need to be about 200 parking spaces for the public. They would also need an additional 100 spaces for all the Austin County Staff and the Sheriff’s vehicles with the staff parking being separated by a fence and gates. There would also need to be a large detention pond for drainage.
(00:07:57 to 00:16:03 of the video) The first floor would house the jail, sheriff’s office and a large lobby with public elevators and restrooms. There would also be a separate elevator to bring prisoners to the courtrooms so that the public and inmates would never intermingle as well as a separate elevator for staff to go to the upper floors to go to work. There is also a large covered area in the front of the building where the building overhangs with concrete columns and benches to allow for more square footage in the upper floors. The benches serve the dual function of being places for people to sit as well as create a barrier, so a vehicle could not be used to ram into the front of the building.
(00:16:03 to 00:19:39 of the video) The second floor of the building would house the county clerk’s office, district attorney’s office as well as the grand jury room. The county clerk’s office would house large vaults for record storage as well as office space to conduct their daily work. There would also be a large area that could be utilized in the future to accommodate future growth.
(00:19:39 to 00:22:04 of the video) The third floor would house the district clerk’s office and would be similar to the county clerks offices in that it would also house large vaults for records. There will be two courtrooms, the county courtroom with a 50-person seating capacity and the district courtroom with an even larger seating capacity (the number was not stated in the presentation) will also be on this floor. Both courtrooms will each have 2 conference rooms, a jury room with its own restroom, storage area, holding cell and separate hallways. One hallway will be for the jury, the other hallway will be for the prisoners being escorted to and from the courtroom to the holding cell. There is also a visitation room for attorneys to visit with their clients as well as the judge’s offices; the county court at law offices and district judge offices along with their support staff.
(00:22:04 to 00:31:52 of the video) It then came time for questions concerning the presentation and architectural drawings. The buildings height was discussed. From the first floor to the second floor would be 14 ft high, and then nearly 17 feet tall on the upper two floors due to the potential courtrooms that require taller ceiling space.
(00:31:52 to 00:34:43 of the video) The discussion/presentation then moved on to the topic of cost for the structure. You can see the handout below as it was handed out in court.
(00:34:43 to 00:58:17 of the video) The remainder of the video was discussion by the commissioners about the cost, feasibility and affordability of such a structure and how to proceed.