By Darren Dunn, general manager Seguin Daily News/KWED Radio
Interim Guadalupe County Judge Charlie Willmann (who I admire and greatly respect) and I completely agree on one subject regarding the Guadalupe County Courthouse — it’s NOT going to close permantly. The story that ran Wednesday’s Seguin Daily News is Charlie’s point-of-view on the topic, which is again one that I respect. But the truth is, Charlie will no longer be part of this discussion after November when a new county judge is sworn-in, and I’m still waiting for more definitive answers about the future of the courthouse and just how long it’s going to be closed before it’s fixed and reopened.
I’ve never suggested that they (commissioners) were walking away from the courthouse completely. What I’ve been saying (on my blog) is that they have no real plan of action for what to do with the courthouse. That’s still true today.
We know the courthouse will have to be empty once renovations begin, but how long will it be vacant, closed, empty before that work starts? One year, two years, five years, or longer? What does that do to downtown Seguin to have a huge landmark closed for an undetermined amount of time. The planning needs to be done now to minimize the disruptions that likely will occur in the heart of our community.
We don’t know how long it will be closed, which means we don’t know when renovations would or could begin. We don’t even know what would be housed in the newly renovated courthouse. Commissioners Court? Civil District Courts? Both things have all been mentioned, but there’s no definitive plan. Let’s get that question answered now. It’s seems like an easy place to start, and then announce that decision to the public, along with details about the next step.
At some point, the county is going to have to work with the Texas Historical Commission on a renovation plan. There’s lots of work and planning that can get started now, but we are kicking this can down the road. A trip that’s likely going to cost us more the longer we wait.
If you told me, we are going to do the prep work now and tackle the courthouse renovation in 2016 when the county retires some of its debt. I’ll say — it’s a plan and the public at least would know what to expect. There aren’t a whole lot of people paying attention to this story right now, but wait for the public outcry when people start driving by the courthouse month after month and see that it’s closed, empty, vacant.
Remember all the current tenants are going to be moved into the soon-to-be remodeled 2nd floor of the Guadalupe County Justice Center. There’s nothing wrong with the move to the Justice Center. What’s wrong is someone needs to offer some clear plan of action on this issue. Just saying the courthouse is not going to close permanantly ignores the truth that it is going to close for an indefinite amount time.
There’s at least one member of the court who has said it could be 10 years before the renovations were done, and it would save the county money. I don’t think the other commissioners or the judge share that point of view. But judge Willmann said this week that it could be 3 to 5 years, but the truth right now is that it could be longer, because there’s no plan of action.