Karnes County Commissioners voted to begin advertising for bids for Phase 1 of the County Courthouse restoration project at their regular meeting September 30. The bulk of Phase 1 work will include removing two additions from the west side of the building and restoration of the west elevation, including windows, doors, and the original roof configuration.

Bids will be closed at 11 a.m. on October 28, at which time bids will be delivered the third floor courtroom of the Karnes County Courthouse and publicly opened.

“We’ll be tearing off two additions made to the west side of the courthouse in the 1920s,” architect Lewis Fisher said. “We believe those structures are why the courthouse is experiencing major cracking.”

Authorizing advertising for bids was the first item on a light agenda. Last week’s commissioners court meeting took less than an hour and was preceded by compliments to the court on its action in restoring the courthouse.

Sue Butler Carter thanked the commissioners court for its work.

“I thank and applaud you for your strong and continuous support for the courthouse restoration project,” Carter said. “It is the culmination of 10 years of work on the grant application process. We are glad this court has found ways to get it done without excuses or inaction.”

Karnes County’s grant application to the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program earned the sixth highest ranking of all applications in the latest round of funding.

The proposal scored a 185, and received perfect marks for “Project” and “Building” criteria as the proposal submitted seeks to restore the courthouse to its original 1894 design.

Karnes County originally filed a grant application with THC around 2002 and received an emergency grant of $150,000, of which the county matched one-third. During that work it was discovered that issues existed with the 1920 addition – mainly that the addition and main building were settling at different rates.

This grant is primarily to remove the addition and restore the west wall. In addition to the funding agreement, the THC required the county to grant an easement to ensure restoration does not include work contrary to the historical commission’s goal of restoring the courthouse.

County commissioners will advertise in local newspapers for two weeks. Architects at the office of Fisher Heck, Inc., in San Antonio will make project information and construction documents available for examination and purchase at their office.

As the meeting continued, commissioners accepted the terms of a lease agreement on the county’s interest in 4.23 acres in the J.W. Looney survey. County Judge Alger Kendall said some editing had been done to the agreement to ensure that its language did not allow the company to put pipelines in the road without the county’s knowledge.

The county will received $6,028.90 plus the cost of publication of bid advertisements for the lease.

“(The changes) allow the commissioners court to decide later if they will allow them to put a pipeline there,” Kendall said.

In the final action item, commissioners approved an increase in the fee charged for on-site sewage facility permits to allow for the increased fee now being paid to the inspector. The increase is $20 for residential and $10 for other permits, bringing the cost up to $100 each. The change has no impact on the county budget and is the first time the commissioners court has addressed the issue since 2005.

Court also got a brief update on fixes to the county jail from Sheriff David Jalufka. Jalfuka said the fix is looking like it will cost approximately $38,000 to get the facility back up to standards.

“We are fortunate the jail commission is working with us quite well,” Kendall said.

Court also heard an update on issues expressed previously by Nick Kroll about CR 272 in Hobson. A gate has been placed on the road, stopping potential visitors from getting to a cemetery approximately one-half mile down. County Roads Administrator Jeffrey Wiatrek contacted the individual who owns the property, and court voted to grant him until November 4 to remove the gate.

Commissioners closed the meeting with the reading of a proclamation declaring 4-H Week, Kristen Jendrusch, Kyler Palmer and Caleb Dziuk.

They also presented the commissioners court with the first copy of their new curriculum, “Keys to the Courthouse,” which focuses on county government.