Elected officials and stakeholders gathered Friday morning at the site of Hidalgo County’s future courthouse to ceremoniously break ground on the new $150 million structure.
The courthouse is scheduled for completion by 2021 and will sit where a parking lot in the downtown square was once located.
“We’re not interested in patching things up, like we’ve done for years,” said state District Judge Noe Gonzalez of the dilapidated courthouse used since 1954. “We’re trying to meet the needs of the future.”
Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia said the current courthouse was built with five courtrooms and was meant to serve 169,000 residents. He predicted the 2020 Census will reveal the county is comprised of over a million people.
“Obviously, there is a dire need,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Joseph Palacios, citing population growth.
The new, seven-story courthouse will house 24 courts, the 13th Court of Appeals and can add up to eight more courtrooms as needed.
“We’re constructing this facility for future growth … that will take us into the 22nd century,” Garcia said. “We have been able to do this without increasing our tax rate.”
Palacios called the construction the “largest project Hidalgo County is ever going to do,” and because of that, it “pose(d) its fair share of problems.”
He also addressed those who suggested an alternative site for improved access and economic development, referring to an offer of 20 acres free of charge from local developer Kent Burns in his La Sienna Development north of Edinburg.
“This is the heart of the city but it’s also the heart of the county,” he said of the location.
Speakers acknowledged the work required to secure the deal.
“This journey started long before,” Palacios said. “For decades, people talked about a (new) courthouse.”
He singled out Edinburg city leadership for praise.
“It started years ago (and) I want to congratulate past administrations, (and the) current administration,” he said. “Along the way, we’re finding our way through the weeds to work together.
“I want to thank them to look beyond everything to find a way to continue to be a partner with us.”
Palacios also credited one person that was pivotal for making the new courthouse a reality.
“With every project, there is always a champion,” he said. “Going through all the years, there’s no one that’s been more diligent with this project than our county judge, Ramon Garcia.”