Commissioners approve almost $5 million to repair courthouse

HOUSTON (FOX 26) — They have been feeling the blues ever since Hurricane Harvey, but they might soon be singing a different tune. Harris County Commissioners Court just voted to spend almost $5 million to renovate and repair the hurricane-damaged courthouse.

"This is enough to get those courtrooms up to speed and ready for them to be useable and in the standard that the judges need them," says Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. "This is not the long term solution."

$400,000 to fix up sixteen courtrooms and $4.54 million to repair the elevators. Currently, only three elevators are operational.

The problem was floodwaters reached into the basement. The computers that controlled the chilled water cooling system went haywire and the system exploded, sending water cascading from the top to the bottom on the building. 

The criminal courts had to move in with the civil courts, causing massive delays to both systems. For example, Joshua Kelley's mother says he waited five months to enter a guilty plea.

"We were just waiting for them to do this," she adds. "This has taken a long time to do this."

The situation has improved since then, but it's still a mess. Trials and hearings have been delayed and inmates have languished in jail awaiting their day in court. The hope is these repairs will take pressure off the system while a panel of stakeholders develop a more permanent solution.

"They've got ninety days to bring a recommendation which could be remodeling the whole building or an entirely new building,” says Hidalgo.

FOX 26 senior legal analyst Chris Tritico says the county is growing and the old building is simply too small. Then there's the matter of the next Harvey.

"When that building floods in the next year or ten years, we're going to be right back in that civil courthouse because we can't fix that flooding problem," describes Tritico. "That's the issue."