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Llano County closes in on federal funds for criminal justice center

Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham briefs the Commissioners Court on the need for final approval to move forward with acquiring over $4.8 million in federal funds to build a new criminal justice center. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Llano County Commissioners Court approved the final steps necessary to acquire over $4.8 million in federal funds to build a new criminal justice center, a one-stop-shop for the county’s scattered courts.

Llano County applied for the money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Community Facilities Program through U.S. Rep. August Pfluger’s office in 2023. The $4.8 million is contingent on the county agreeing to various USDA conditions. 

During its meeting on Monday, May 13, the Commissioners Court unanimously voted for County Judge Ron Cunningham to move forward with the paperwork needed to solidify the grant.

The proposed criminal justice center will likely be located on the same property as the Llano County Sheriff’s Office at 2001 Texas 16 North, which is just outside of Llano. The structure would include offices for the 424th/33rd district attorney, district clerk, and local public defenders. It would also be a venue for county court, family court, and federal and state courts.

Currently, the county’s legal offices are located throughout the city of Llano. All local courts share the same courtrooms at the Llano County Courthouse and the Sheriff’s Office. 

“What we’re trying to do is build a facility that would house all of those (legal) departments in one building, under one roof,” Cunningham told the court. “It will improve the efficiencies within our criminal justice system.”

One of the strings attached to the federal money is that the USDA retains an interest in the building, said Llano County First Assistant Attorney Matt Rienstra.

“If the county would ever sell (the building), USDA would be compensated,” he said. “As long as you are using this building for a governmental purpose, it’s fine.”

The county also will have to amend a contract with Riley Mountain Engineering, which was contracted to oversee the project in 2022. The firm was originally functioning as the project manager, but the conditions set forth by the USDA grant require that it now sees the project through its complete design phase and that the project goes out for bid once plans are complete.

Currently, there is no firm date for completion of the criminal justice center, but with USDA funding secured, a timeline should develop in the near future.

dakota@thepicayune.com

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