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Courthouse campaign launches

Tuesday, June 23, 2015 by Caleb Pritchard

The campaign to sell voters on Travis County’s proposed $291.6 million Civil and Family Courts Complex officially launched on Monday. A press conference was held at the Women’s Community Center in downtown Austin, a backdrop befitting the opening arguments for the project. While there is overwhelming agreement in the county that the current civil courthouse is overcrowded and inadequate for a growing community, supporters of the new project argue that the proposed facility’s high cost is necessary to ensure “safety and security for women, children, and families.” “At the courthouse in Travis County, we do not have ‘safe rooms’ where victims can wait separately from the person who has hurt them; there is not room to provide these spaces,” said Julie Spann, the executive director of SafePlace, a group focused on ending domestic violence. “At our current courthouse, it is almost inevitable that a victim will come face to face with the abuser in the hallway, the elevator or the courtroom. No wonder so many victims are too afraid to file charges or to go to court.” The proposed facility would include special separate sections to keep victims, the accused and court employees apart when they’re not in courtrooms. The total tax impact, according to the Austin Bar Association, will be about $42 per year on a $325,000 home. The Commissioners Court is exploring how much revenue the county stands to make from a second tower on the site that could be leased out to private businesses. The commissioners will take up on Tuesday an item to schedule that potential study.

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