Scaffolding rising to the top of the familiar silver dome — erected so workers can clean the tower’s exterior — gives the Johnson County Courthouse a different look and provides further indication of progress on the courthouse restoration project.

Commissioner Troy Thompson said Tuesday that, despite occasional setbacks associated with any project this size, the renovation is going well and should reach completion about July 2007.

“We’re about 23 percent through at this point,” Thompson said. “Most of the engineering factors are in place so we should start making good time now.”

Johnson County secured a $4 million state grant through the Texas Courthouse Preservation Program last year and contributed $3.5 million in county funds to complete the project, which will restore the 1912 downtown courthouse to its original condition. County officials formerly housed at the courthouse moved to the Guinn Justice Center while renovations take place. Many, though not all, will return once the project completes.

Thompson and commissioners court assistant Sandy Sims serve as project liaisons to the commissioners court.

In that capacity, Thompson said they meet with the project manager, construction manager and architects about twice a month and that he and Sims walk through the building every week to monitor progress. Representatives from the Texas Historical Commission — which administers the Texas Courthouse Preservation Program — also attend meetings when approvals on certain project facets are required before the project can proceed, Thompson said.

Several such matters occupied the committee’s time Tuesday when it met for several hours.

Some questions were resolved while others will require further discussion.

THC approved proposed lighting fixtures to be used throughout the building. Sims called that good news as workers were able to salvage several original fixtures found under stair cases and storage areas that had never been used.

Sidewalks surrounding the courthouse formed another concern.

The repair of the sidewalks — which are cracked and damaged in areas and don’t meet Americans With Disabilities Act standards — does not fall within the grant or the restoration project.

Thompson said he nonetheless hopes to have the sidewalks repaired simultaneously with the courthouse restoration.

The silver dome atop the courthouse tower provided the biggest source of contention.

Thompson said the commissioners were never happy with the concrete orb’s silver surface, which is painted on. Research revealed the original color as a brownish-orange, like terra cotta.

Thompson said the commissioners want to install a seamless metal roof in that color on the dome. THC representatives refused that request Tuesday, preferring the dome be painted with a sealant paint after patching the cracks.

“Nothing has been decided for sure yet,” Thompson said. “We’re just on opposite sides of the spectrum on that issue. But I don’t see the point of patching and repatching that roof.”

The good news, Thompson said, is that the dome’s cracks are superficial and the concrete still has a lot of integrity.

Climbing the stairs to the top catwalk level, and the top of the courthouse dome, Thompson inspected the cracking firsthand and the damaged flagpole base, which he believes can be repaired fairly easily.

“All the things we talked about today have to go back to the commissioners court for decision,” Thompson said. “Sandy and I just attend these meetings and walk-throughs so we can keep the other commissioners up to date and they can make informed decisions.”

Matt Smith can be reached at

817-645-2441, ext. 2339, or

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