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20110916_HidalgoCountySealMISSION — Hidalgo County residents will get a chance to meet with planners next week to discuss the Hidalgo County Courthouse master plan that a 28-member committee has worked on over the past few months.

Each precinct will get its own meeting where consultants will discuss the history of the courthouse, the project and the work done thus far, organizers said this week.

Precinct 3’s forum will be held Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 6 p.m. at the precinct’s offices located at 725 N. Breyfogle St. The hour-long meeting will also allow taxpayers a chance to ask questions about the effort.

The committee, which is made up of stake holders like elected county officials as well as community members, has met three times to go over options for remodeling and reconstructing of the courthouse.

“Bringing together stakeholders from various areas of our community is a key element to discovering the additional needs for a new courthouse,” said Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia. “We need a new courthouse and hope that these important forums are well attended by our citizens and community leaders during this important process that will impact future generations for years to come.”

With a 30 percent growth in the county’s population, the workload at the courthouse has also increased. Currently, the courthouse and annex building built in 1968, offers staff and the community about 100,000 square feet of space.

In meeting with different departments, consultants have identified a need for approximately 360,000 square feet, consultant and architect Eli Ochoa said previously.

Ochoa and his team have spent five months gathering data and meeting with county staff that operates in the courthouse to understand the needs.

The information was used to help the group decide on the need to design a building two empty floors for future growth, which could help the county get through the next 50 years.

“In 1908, the population of our county was approximately 12,350 and our courthouse was 6,000 square feet. When the current courthouse was built in 1954, our population was approximately 168,000 and our courthouse was 56,000 square feet,” Ochoa said. “Currently, our population is close to 800,000 and we are using a courthouse that does not match our population. We need a new courthouse.”

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