The historic courthouses of Texas, without which the lemonade, chewing tobacco and dominoes industries would have long ago collapsed, are themselves collapsing. Again.
Taxpayers have since 1999 spent $247 million to keep the domes, cupolas and turrets atop 83 of the old warhorses, but that isn’t near enough, according to a report by KXAN-TV in Austin.
After 14 years of restoration, the state’s county courthouses have found themselves back on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
To help blot out the shame, the Texas Historical Commission is asking the Legislature for another $20 million in this session. But with at least 75 of the more than 235 courthouses 50 years or older in need of work, expect the requests to go on in perpetuity.
Stung by the first National Trust reproach, Gov. George W. Bush and the Legislature in 1999 ponied up $50 million to establish the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program. The grant reached a high of $62 million in the 2007 session but has dipped to $20 million for each of the past two biennia.
Should the funding not be forthcoming, counties might want to consider setting up committees for issuing bonds without voter approval as was done to prompt quick action to build a new $343 million courthouse in Travis County.
And if that doesn’t work out, there’s always room for folding dominoes tables in the Wal-Mart parking lot.
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.
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Photo of Fort Bend County courthouse by flickr user fusionpanda, used via a Creative Commons license.