Action and reaction to Aransas County’s intention to issue “up to” $24.5 million in certificates of obligation, to cover the gap in funding for the new courthouse that will replace the one Hurricane Harvey destroyed, as well as some unrelated expenditures, has occurred as fast or faster than decisions now being made about the upcoming college football season.
The biggest difference, between the decision about this fall’s football games and the courthouse, is the decision made for one (football season) will impact those who love college football for at most one year. The decision made regarding the courthouse will affect most of us (anyone 30 or older) for the rest of our lives.
There are many stories in this edition from Monday’s County commissioners’ meeting. Unfortunately, more people will probably be reading the stories in this issue, compared to the number who have read all stories - especially those related to the history of the Downtown Anchor Project - since Harvey landed on our shores.
As I was writing the story about the bond issue, I reviewed the 8+ pages of stories I’ve written specifically about the courthouse and/or Downtown Anchor Project (DAP).
I ran across a story published in the Feb. 24, 2018 edition of this newspaper. It was about the demolition of the old courthouse, which began in earnest Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018.
Here is part of that Feb. 24, 2008 story:
“The now ‘old’ courthouse (which served the county 61 years), a ‘motel style’ one-story brick, concrete, and steel building was opened in 1956. An addition was added in 1983.
“It replaced an imposing three-story Moorish-inspired courthouse with multiple arched windows and teardrop dome, which provided its strong character. It cost less than $20,000 to build when it was constructed in 1889, and was the heart for Aransas County government until 1956 (67 years).
“Aransas County Judge C.H. ‘Burt’ Mills manned the machinery to knock down the first piece of the courthouse early Thursday morning.
“‘It’s exciting and exhilarating to be on that big machine, but sad at the same time because of the history of this building,’ said Mills. ‘It has served us well for many years.’
“The judge noted the late John D. Wendell, who served many years as county judge, as well as Mills’ grandfather, were both on the commissioners’ court when the courthouse being demolished was built.
“‘It has a soft spot in a lot of peoples’ hearts,’ said Mills.
“He continued, ‘The storm damaged (the courthouse) and it needs to come down and we need to replace it with something new, built to today’s standards.’
“The county has purchased the property surrounding the courthouse, knowing it would need to replace the courthouse in the future. Harvey has sped up that process.
“Mills said the insurance company wants the county to do something within three years.”
Now, the part that hit me was at the end of the story. I featured it as a “pull quote” in that edition. I imagine, in the back of my mind, I did that to make sure what the judge said would ring true at a later date.
I quoted Judge Mills in the third from the last paragraph:
“We’ll go out for RFQs as soon as we find out how we’re going to pay for it,” said Mills. “I’m not going to ask to raise taxes to pay for it.”
Well judge. You didn’t lie!
Those who didn’t read that story, now know he kept his word.
Now that voters will most likely be making the decision regarding our centerpiece courthouse, lets pray we approve one we can ALL be proud of, if not immediately, than tomorrow, and for many years to come.
The spinoff benefits derived from the DAP are more than any of us can imagine at this time … and your taxes won’t be raised to pay for the debt issued.
It’s a unique opportunity for all of us to make a decision that will impact, in a positive way, future generations.
What we build today - at today’s cost, using historically low interest rates, and with the aid of the insurance settlement and FEMA funds - will be impossible to match anytime in the future.
Until next week, have a good week, and keep thinking long-term.
Mike Probst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.