Liberty County working with FEMA to restore hurricane-damaged historic courtroom

The tapestries in the northeast corner of the 75th State District Courtroom in Liberty County show signs of water damage as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

Eighteen months after Hurricane Harvey damaged the 75th State District Courtroom in Liberty County, county commissioners and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are working together to return the courtroom to its pre-disaster condition.

“During Hurricane Harvey, due to the excessive amount of water that inundated the courthouse, it caused mildew and damage to the tapestries in the 75th District Courtroom, particularly in the northeast corner of the courtroom,” explained Pct. 1 Commissioner Bruce Karbowski, who duties as commissioner include maintenance to the courthouse. “FEMA is really on board with giving us the funding to do this. This is something that is historical and we can’t let this go away.”

Karbowski’s comments came after the Feb. 12 commissioners court meeting in which the court unanimously agreed to approve renovations and repairs to the courtroom as required by FEMA. The repairs must restore the courtroom to its historical status.

James Carson, the point person for the county on FEMA-related matters, explained to the commissioners about a recent visit by FEMA personnel to the 75th District Courtroom.

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“It’s caught the attention of people higher up in FEMA because it is a historical courtroom and was placed in the historical register. It has to go back to the way it was. There are a lot of things in the courtroom that were handmade,” Carson said.

According to Carson, the historical aspects of the courtroom include designs in the ceiling that are handmade from sandstone.

“They really need a specialist to come in and give a good detailed bid on it to pass on to FEMA,” he said, adding that FEMA personnel have already met with the Liberty County Historical Commission to learn more about the history of the courthouse.

Commissioners all agreed that action must be taken to restore the courtroom but they were undecided on the best way to move forward since they do not have a scope of work for bidding.

“There will only be a handful of professionals in the United States who will be able to do this anyway. With FEMA so eager to jump on board with this, I think we need to move on with the bidding and get a scope of work,” Karbowski said.

Karbowski motioned for the court to approve renovations and repairs, authorize permission to seek a contractor for evaluation for FEMA requirements and request bids for restoration.

The court was in favor and approved the motion unanimously.

In other business, the court:

  • approved a preliminary plat for a new Dollar General store on FM 1413 at US 90 in Dayton;
  • approved a pay request for $113,936 from Millis Equipment for a Pct. 1 drainage project, the funding for which will come from the General Land Office;
  • approved a request from the City of Kenefick for assistance in repairing CR 645;
  • approved a motion to hire an expert in HVAC units to do a conditional assessment of the air conditioning and heating unit at the Liberty County Jail; and
  • approved a motion from the County Clerk’s Office to destroy old voting equipment that is no longer needed as the county has purchased new voting machines from Hart Intercivics. The new equipment will allow the county to continue using paper ballots and eliminate the need for pre-printed ballots as ballots can now be printed on demand by election personnel.

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