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Ground broken for county justice center

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Ellis County Press

WAXAHACHIE - County officials tossed around a little physical dirt and a little verbal dirt on Thursday, Dec. 12 at the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new justice center.

'This day has been long coming,' said Jo Bhore, project manager for the building.

'It is the culmination of years of dedicated effort on the part of the commissioners, who overcame the misguided, but considered efforts on the part of a few.'

One citizen later took issue with Bhore's choice of words.

'A few? The voters said no,' he said vehemently.

'So we're misguided in telling them they can't have a Taj Mahal?'

Bhore closed his comments by introducing the commissioners who were present at the event. Commissioner Ron Brown, pct. 4, did not attend.

Earlier in the week, Brown voted against awarding the contract for construction of the justice center.

'The voters said no,' he told the Ellis County Press. 'I feel like that ought to be my stance, too.' Commissioners Hallie Robin-son, pct. 1; Jerry Holland, pct. 2; and Charlie Waller, pct. 3, were in attendance. Commissioner-elect Jackie Miller, pct. 3, was also present.

Bhore also introduced Peter Arnold, an architectural consultant from London, England.

'A world-renowned architect,' Bhore said, 'He did the complete layout.'

DCW Architects Inc. is the architect of record on the project; Arnold is a consultant and as such was not paid directly by the county. According to the contract, DCW will receive '7 ½ percent of the fixed limit of the budget,' or $506,250.

Thus far, the county has paid $379,687.50 to DCW Architects.

According to County Judge Al Cornelius, Arnold supplied 'some aspects of the design,' working through Vince Staccio of DCW.

Cornelius read a list of dignitaries in attendance, including Waxahachie City Manager Bob Sokoll, Waxahachie Mayor Chuck Beatty, Waxahachie Council Member Susie Braden, Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce President Buck Jordan, Ennis Mayor Russell Thomas, Red Oak Mayor Todd Little, Red Oak City Manager Ken Pfeifer and State Representative Jim Pitts.

Pitts stepped up to the podium to offer his congratulations to the county commissioners.

'Thanks for having the foresight to see the growth of Ellis County,' Pitts said. 'The lawyers are anxious to get a new justice center.'

Cornelius also read a letter from County Attorney Joe Grubbs in which Grubbs expressed regret at having been unable to attend the function.

'This is a visionary step by the court,' Grubbs said. 'Pride in the past, hope in the future - ongoing restoration of the historic courthouse balanced by the construction of the new justice center.'

With respect to the historic 'old' jail located directly across the street from the site of the new justice center, Cornelius said no decisions have yet been made.

'We have been talking about what to do with the old jail,' he said. 'We are waiting on some development on that. Historical interests are struggling for a solution, and we will hold off a little longer.'

Construction of a new façade for the old jail is one of the alternate bids commissioners voted to 'hold for 60 days for further consideration' at last week's meeting.

Demolition of the structure was also mentioned by one commissioner.

At the conclusion of the judge's comments, attendees stepped out of the heated tent officials had provided for the event. Officials dug into a pile of dirt with dainty gold-colored shovels and smiled broadly for a bevy of cameramen.

'One, two, three - Go!' they shouted as they tossed the sand into the air.

The justice center is expected to cost taxpayers $6,750,000 and is scheduled for completion on Feb. 1, 2002.

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