BOC places levy on May ballot

Polk County Courthouse

Photo by Jolene Guzman
Polk County Courthouse

POLK COUNTY — Following two public hearings on Feb. 14, the Polk County Board of Commissioners voted to prepare a 15-year, $9.7 million bond measure for maintenance and repair of the courthouse buildings to appear on the May 15 ballot.

A final vote to forward the measure to the Polk County Clerk will take place Wednesday (today).

If approved by voters, the measure would pay for upgrades to the nearly 120-year-old historic courthouse building and the approximately 50-year-old addition.

Included on the list of projects are: a new roof on the addition; HVAC improvements and window updates in both buildings; elevator replacement; ADA access improvements; asbestos abatement; exterior restoration of the historic courthouse; exterior renovation of the addition; expansion and remodel of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office; and emergency generator upgrades and basic seismic upgrades.

The cost for the measure averages about 10 cents per $1,000 per assessed value on properties, or approximately $25 per year on a $250,000 assessed value home.

Five people testified at the two public hearings — all supportive of the measure.

Dallas Mayor Brian Dalton said he has a family connection to the historic courthouse. His great-grandfather served as treasurer in the courthouse when it was new, and his father was part of a group who helped save it from demolition in the early 1960s.

“One-hundred and seventeen years ago, my great-grandfather moved in the new courthouse building. Fifty-seven years ago, my father rescued the old building from certain destruction,” Dalton said. “Here today, I feel strongly the pull of history to come to its aid and it is again threatened, this time in slow motion, year-in and year-out with demolition by neglect.”

He said deferred maintenance is the symptom of lean financial years, and agreed that it’s time to invest in the buildings.

Dalton said he’s encouraged by the plans to remodel the exterior of the addition — built in the late 1960s — to help it blend in better with the historic building. He called it “de-uglification.”

He added the county should find strong support for the measure from organizations like the Dallas Downtown Association and Dallas Area Chamber of Commerce.

David Shein, a member of the Dallas Urban Renewal District Advisory Committee, said any effort to revitalize Dallas’ downtown must include maintaining the courthouse buildings.

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