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County wins courthouse

Friday, December 30, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

Travis County will be taking over the 81-year-old U.S. Courthouse in downtown Austin. On Thursday morning, Rep. Lloyd Doggett joined County Judge Sarah Eckhardt on the steps of the building at W. Eighth and Lavaca streets to announce that the federal government had approved the county’s application to adopt the courthouse. The decision was made possible after a similar application from homelessness support group Front Steps was rejected just before Christmas. The county plans on using the building to house Judge Guy Herman and his probate court along with some county clerk staff, thus relieving pressure on the 85-year-old Heman Marion Sweatt Courthouse – though Eckhardt stressed that the county still desperately needs a new civil courthouse. The county won’t have to pay a dime to the feds to receive the courthouse, but it will have to assume the costs to renovate it, a sum estimated at $28 million. Calling it a “beautiful grand lady of a building,” Eckhardt pledged to preserve its historic charms while also updating it to serve as a center of justice in the 21st century. “Travis County will ensure that the historic federal courthouse continues to bear witness to our civic history,” she said in a statement. “The County will undertake design, construction, and contingencies to prepare the building to meet code requirements and County occupancy by 2020.”

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