County OKs lease for tax office space in former restaurant

The county has leased this building at 3210 US 90 in Liberty for the new tax office location. The tax office is moving from the Liberty County Courthouse to make room for the second county court at law.

By Vanesa Brashier,

Liberty County commissioners approved the lease of a building on US 90, previously used as a restaurant, for the future tax office at the July 2 special-called meeting. The 5,000-square-foot building is located at 3210 US 90 where Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant was most recently located.

“We think it has the things we need to serve the present needs and growing needs of the tax office,” said Liberty County Tax Assessor-Collector Ricky Brown. “It’s in good condition. The landlord has been very attentive to it and has kept it in good condition. I think, from what research I’ve done, to retrofit it is the least costly [option] to serve the public.”

Brown is confident that the tax office equipment will be moved and employees will be ready to help citizens at the new location as early as Aug. 15.

“The biggest challenge will be getting the State in here to get the hardware lines for the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). We are on schedule now. We just have to change our address,” he said.

The move to a new location was prompted by the creation of a new county court at law, which was signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott through HB 717. The law goes into effect on Sept. 1. The new court will be located on the first floor of the courthouse in the space currently occupied by the tax office.

“The tax office is the mountain in the middle of the stream. I can see the benefit of us moving,” said Brown. “We are the reason the courthouse has so many visitors at any given time.”

The lease for the new office building is $4,000 per month, which county leaders hope will be offset by the expediency in which cases are handled through the court system, thereby reducing expenses at the county jail for housing inmates awaiting trial.

“Ideally, we would be purchasing a building,” Brown said after the meeting. “Quite honestly, there isn’t anything out there now for us to purchase.”

An added benefit to the move will be more available parking spaces at the courthouse.

“There are 50 dedicated parking spaces at the new building. It will be a relief for the public and the employees to not be parking at the courthouse,” he said.

The building needs some minor modification before it is ready for move-in. Brown plans to have a wall constructed to separate the public area from the employee area. The public area will be larger than the current space at the courthouse, which will be beneficial in January when visits to the tax office see a sharp increase due to property tax notices.

“We will need to install a camera and alarm system. I am hoping to have some security presence, particularly during peak times,” Brown said.

In other business at the July 2 commissioners court meeting, commissioners approved a contract for professional services from Burns Architecture, Inc. to represent the county on planning and developing three proposed projects, including a new law enforcement complex, a judicial center and a new office building and courtroom for Pct. 3.

The $55,000 fee for services with Burns Architecture, Inc., will come from a portion of the budget set aside for professional services.

“We have to first get an estimated cost for the buildings. Once we have that, it will enable us to proceed with the procurement of a certificate of obligation for the purchase of the property for the law enforcement complex and construction of the other buildings,” said County Judge Jay Knight.

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