PRESS RELEASE
From the Office of State Senator Troy Fraser

For Immediate Release
March 10, 1999
Contact: William A. Scott - (512) 463-0124

Fraser Bill for Historic Courthouse Restoration Clears Senate Finance

AUSTIN --- The Senate Finance Committee today approved a bill authored by Senator Troy Fraser that would authorize the Texas Historical Commission to grant or loan money for the restoration of up to 225 historic courthouses throughout Texas.

The legislation, Senate Bill 728, provides the legal basis for state funds to be appropriated by creating a Historical Courthouse Preservation Fund. The actual appropriation level of state funds will be determined by the amount finalized in the state's 2000-2001 budget, which lawmakers are currently writing.

"Texas has more historic courthouses than any other state, and they are the local symbols of strength, pride, progress and democracy," Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, said in remarks at the Capitol Rotunda to a gathering hosted by Preservation Texas, a statewide organization dedicated to historic preservation.

"Courthouses serve as centers of government and economic activity and are increasingly serving as important landmarks for heritage tourism," Fraser said.

Under the bill, the Historical Commission would determine criteria for awarding grant funds for the restoration projects, with preferences given to courthouses owned by counties and that actually function as a courthouse.

Courthouse owners would be expected to provide at least 15 percent of the restoration project's cost, and that percentage could include in-kind contributions as well as previous expenditures for master planning and renovations, Fraser said.

The Historical Commission would be authorized to consider other factors in determining whether to grant an application for funding, including the architectural style and historical significance of the courthouse.

County governments will determine the scope and scale of the restoration projects, Fraser said. Grants for courthouse projects may not exceed $4 million, or 2 percent of the amount appropriated by the Texas Legislature for the program.

Fraser noted that in June 1998, the National Trust for Historic Preservation added 225 historic courthouses -- which are at least 50 years old -- to its annual list of endangered historic places.

"The National Trust concluded that historic Texas courthouses are national treasures threatened by neglect, deterioration, lack of maintenance, insufficient funds, inappropriate development and insensitive public policy," Fraser said. "This listing affirmed the timeliness of Governor Bush's Texas Courthouse Preservation Initiative and I'm happy to carry the bill in the Senate."

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