By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org
A new $14,000 lighting project has the Liberty County Courthouse all aglow. The ground-level lights are installed to illuminate the courthouse’s natural beauty created by its Texas Cordova Cream limestone exterior and Art Deco design.
The LED lighting systems, which all operate on a single 20-amp breaker, were picked because of their efficiency and lumens rating.
Pct. 1 Commissioner Bruce Karbowski, who had the bright idea of improving lighting at the courthouse, did so for two reasons – increased visibility for security and to improve the aesthetics of the 1931 courthouse.
Since being appointed to fill the unexpired term of the previous Pct. 1 commissioner, Karbowski has dedicated himself to improving and preserving the courthouse. Karbowski’s responsibilities, in addition to road and bridge maintenance and repairs for Pct. 1, include maintaining all of the county’s facilities, including those in Cleveland, Dayton, Hardin and Daisetta.
“The courthouse needed a lot of work on it, and I am just scratching the surface,” he said. “It’s still more than has been done in the last 15 years.”
In addition to the lighting systems, grouting on the brick of the courthouse has been replaced and squirrels that had taken up residency in the third floor record storage rooms have been relocated.
“It took us a while to get the squirrels out of the courthouse, and you can take that any way you want,” said Karbowski with a chuckle. “So far we have collected five squirrels and relocated them somewhere else. The squirrels were nesting in records.”
The holes that the squirrels were using to enter the courthouse have since been blocked.
“We hope we have blocked up all the places they were coming in,” he said.
Another recent improvement to the courthouse is the new awning system on the west side near the tax office entrance. The awnings were installed after commissioners decided to lock down all other entries into the courthouse for security reasons. All visitors must now enter the courthouse on the west side, which creates a bottleneck of people trying to enter the courthouse during high-traffic times, such as when trials are underway, juries are being selected and property tax deadlines.
“I know people object to being searched or not being able to bring a pocket knife or gun into the courthouse, but to me the courthouse is where justice is served by a judge or jury, not an angry individual,” he said.
Courthouse maintenance crews have also recently restored the north and south doors and the steps leading to the third floor.
A project Karbowski is anxiously waiting to complete is the restoration of the murals in 75th State District Courtroom, which were damaged when rain from Hurricane Harvey permeated the limestone exterior.
“There is historical value in this courtroom. It is the largest courtroom in the State of Texas,” Karbowski said.
These repairs will be paid for through grants from the Texas Historical Commission, according to the commissioner, and will have to be made when the courtroom is not in session.
The water leakage into the courthouse may have started years ago when the courthouse was sandblasted, he said.
“They apparently didn’t realize that limestone has to be resealed. A lot of our water problems in the courthouse have come from water coming through the rock itself,” Karbowski said.
The limestone will need to be resealed before the murals can be restored. He estimates that the murals should be repaired within the next two years.
Karbowski will soon be overseeing the build-out of the new County Court at Law No. 2 courtroom, which is being created in the current tax office space on the first floor of the courthouse. The tax office is moving to a 5,000-square-foot building at 3210 US 90 where Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant was most recently located.
The courtroom is projected to be ready some time this fall. Former County Court at Law Judge Don Taylor was appointed as judge until an election can be held next year.