The remodel of the commissioners’ meeting room in the McLennan County Courthouse may turn heads when it is unveiled to the public Tuesday.
“It is long overdue,” County Judge Scott Felton said. “I don’t think there has been any improvements done to this room in 20 or 30 years, or at least that’s when the last dedication was.”
Commissioners will rededicate the renovated room during their meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday. County Administrator Dustin Chapman said the courthouse’s terrazzo floors were installed in the early 1960s, which likely is when the commissioners courtroom was last remodeled.
The county budgeted $65,000 to overhaul the room, removing wood paneling, aged carpet, old seating and outdated electronics. The room is now more modern but intended to look like it matches the 1901 courthouse, Felton said.
“Some of the features I really like are the technology that is installed and will not only let us as a commissioners court be able to see presentations but also audience members that come into the court,” he said.
County employees spent about three weeks on the remodel under the guidance of facilities director T.J. Jackson. Crediting much of the work to project coordinator Daniel Stewart, Jackson said the county’s focus was two-fold.
“We really wanted to upgrade and update the space as much as possible but still keep that historical feel,” Jackson said. “For us, that was the main vision.”
Because of the meeting room’s interior location in the courthouse, commissioners did not have to get approval from the Texas Historical Commission for the remodel. Regardless, Waco artist Von Otto designed faux pillars at the front and back of the room to match the stone pillars in the fourth-floor law library. The law library itself is up for a $40,000 renovation so it can host two new specialty courts in need of a home: a veterans court and a mental health treatment court.
“We had the old paneling, so we ripped all that out and we still worked with the old Sheetrock to make the old become new,” Stewart said of the commissioners meeting room. “We had teams work nonstop and work with all the audio-visual stuff to run wires and install new ceiling tiles to help bring in the old feel versus a regular flat tile.”
Felton said the remodel was long overdue, but the result is well worth the wait. He said the courts can use the commissioners meeting room when needed, as can other county groups, making it a multi-use space.
“In 2012 we had a negative budget and this would have been the last thing we would have considered,” he said. “We were able to start tackling deferred maintenance of the courthouse piece by piece. We feel like we have our arms around it now, so now this is a good time to get this done.”