New Travis County advisory committee to examine need for additional courts capacity

Travis County Commissioners Court The Travis County Commissioners Court meets at 700 Lavaca St. in Central Austin.[/caption]

At its Feb. 2 meeting, Travis County Commissioners Court approved the creation of an advisory committee to continue work on the issues surrounding the need for additional capacity for courts following voters’ rejection of bond funds for a proposed new civil and family courts complex, or CFCC, in November.

Commissioners voted 4-1-0 in favor of the amended charge for the committee, with Commissioner Ron Davis opposed. Davis abstained from a 4-0-1 vote to create a 25-person board with up to five appointees for each member of the commissioners court.

Belinda Powell, strategic planning manager for the Travis County Planning and Budget Office, told commissioners some members of the existing Community Focus Committee that worked on CFCC plans have said they want to continue serving the county on the new advisory committee.

Not all members of the previous committee were 100 percent in favor of the proposed downtown Austin location, she added.

Commissioner Brigid Shea noted the county has heard numerous concerns about the desire to locate a new courthouse facility in East Austin because of potential economic benefits.

Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said he does not think a courthouse would necessarily be a huge economic benefit to the area.

“I don’t want to mislead people to think that if we located a courthouse in East Austin suddenly it will cause a renaissance of business units around [the building],” Shea said, adding she would want the committee to examine potential social and economic impact in that part of Austin.

The court will aim to ensure the new committee has membership from a diverse array of backgrounds, Judge Sarah Eckhardt said.

Daugherty said he would like to see mostly new members of the committee, rather than reinstating the same people who served on the community focus committee.

Now that the court has approved the charge, its members will come back to the courtroom at a later date to discuss appointments to the committee, Eckhardt said.

The court has recently discussed next steps for its CFCC plans and approved a preservation master plan for the existing Heman Marion Sweatt Courthouse.


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