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Courthouse renovations about to begin

Held up by asbestos removal, renovations on the historic Williamson County Courthouse will soon get under way, according to Houston Naron, chairman of the county’s Board of Commissioners.

“First we were held up by asbestos – it was found in every part of the building,” Naron said.

Then the original contractor hired to remove the substance could not meet the performance contract, so another one had to be hired. The asbestos removal was scheduled to be completed this week.

“After the building has been certified, the asbestos is totally removed, (we) will sit down and work on a renovation schedule,” Naron said.

When a plan has been pulled together, the project should be completed within 24 to 36 months.

From plumbing and electrical to the building’s façade, renovations on the historic courthouse that was built in 1858 and the annex will be extensive, but the “historic value will be protected,” Naron said.

Short term plans will allow a variety of community-based organizations like the Williamson County-Franklin Chamber of Commerce and the newly independent Williamson County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau and the District Attorney’s office to utilize the building, but any group or organization leasing space in the renovated courthouse better not get too settled.

“In a period of 15 years, there will be nothing in the courthouse that will not be judicial related,” Naron predicted. “Leases will only be available until it is needed for the judiciary.”

The temporary plan calls for each floor to be designated for specific utilization – the top floor and annex will be an extension of the Justice Center, the middle floor will be used for county government-operated organizations, the second floor for groups supporting the general public and the bottom floor for the District Attorney and others who are interested, Naron said.

“We have no lack of interest, but parking is an issue,” he said.

But the long-term goal for the courthouse and its annex is for it to eventually resume its position as an integral part of the criminal justice system.

“Ultimately, when my committee made the correct decision to keep the Dan German Hospital and not expand the Criminal Justice Center in that direction, we knew then we will have to use the historic building and the annex for future expansion,” Naron said.

When that time comes, with a few adjustments, a constituent will go through security at the front door of the existing Judicial Center on Fourth Avenue and using an overhead walkway similar to the ones at St. Thomas and Baptist Hospitals, go all the way through to the old courthouse and annex without leaving a secured area, Naron said.

But right now, Naron and his committee are just looking forward to getting the renovations under way.

Posted on: 8/23/2007


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