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What to do with all that red sandstone at the SSC

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The Ellis County Press

SITE OF THE SUPERCONDUCTING SUPERCOLLIDER – There are vacant buildings, hollow underground tunnels, a sheriff’s office substation and $150,000 worth of red sandstone rock that former County Judge Al Cornelius ordered.

The cemetery of red rock – purchased through a shell corporation The Ellis County Press (and only this paper) exposed several years ago – sits idle as weeds grow, critters chirp and weather takes its toll.

The rock was intended for the county courthouse restoration, according to County Auditor Mike Navarro.

Some thought it was to accent the now-razed Ellis County Justice Center, a three-story pink stucco-walled (hence the term "Pink Elephant") government facility Ellis County taxpayers rejected.

The pink building was constructed using a finance mechanism called a tax anticipation note, which Cornelius – elected as a Republican but censured by his own party – helped pass through on a 3-1 commissioners’ court vote (Commissioner Ron Brown, R-Red Oak, was the lone vote against it and still serves on the court).

Taxpayers are still footing the bill for the project that had to be demolished because of excessive mold and water damage (this reporter snuck in through an unlocked door in 2002 to digitally document the inside damages. No Trespassing signs were posted the next week.)

The county sued the architect, made off with a sizable cash settlement that now accrues interest in a bank account and is set to start construction on the justice center’s replacement – same location, two bonds to pay off.

Due to a refinancing the county pushed in the early part of this century, Ellis County’s taxpayers won’t be stuck holding that big of a bill for vacant land.

The red rock, though, still sits dormant waiting for county officials to auction it, sell it or utilize it on the new round of county facilities.

Navarro, who has served in the auditor’s seat for years, said the rock isn’t for sale, but if it were to be sold to the public, county commissioners could declare the property abandoned and set it up for auction.

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