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Murdered Kaufman County Prosecutor Prompts Talk About New Courthouse

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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KAUFMAN COUNTY (CBS 11 NEWS) – The recent killing of a Kaufman County prosecutor is prompting renewed interest in a new court complex.

A public hearing is set for 9 a.m. Friday morning, just across the street at the courthouse annex. The question, does the work in the current courthouse need to be moved to a better facility? County Judge Dr. Bruce Wood says the death of Mark Hasse has people asking this question.

“Had he been able to park in a more secure location, perhaps that crime never would have occurred.”

Judge Wood says there’s been a need for a new court complex for years, but the still-unsolved murder of Hasse, who was gunned down as he walked from a parking lot to the courthouse four weeks ago, has jump-started talk about a new court complex, possibly next to the law enforcement center, east of town.

“It would make security a lot better, as far as the transporting of prisoners would not have to be made. They could simply walk over from the jail,” says Wood, who adds inmates now frequently walk past the very jurors who might be asked to sit in judgment of them on their way to court.

The argument is not new. In 2006, voters turned down a 21-million dollar courts proposal. But the mood might be different now.

“Oh, yes, yes. I think it’s very much needed,” says Adult Probation Officer Ben Carmona who adds, “It’s very crowded over there, and I think it would be a good move on the part of the county.”

Kaufman County resident Penny Waugh agrees. “I think it’d be a good idea. It’s hard to find a parking spot and stuff. If they move it out on the outskirts, that’s fine.”

Her fiance’, Cesar Alonzo thinks so, too. “I think with the growth of this county and the fact they’re taking on more responsibility as far as prosecuting more cases and stuff like that, it might not be a bad idea at all. As a taxpayer, I think it might be a great idea.”

But many people who work or have businesses on the square share Brent Deen’s concerns.

The owner of Texas Country Home Cooking claims moving the courts would be harmful to downtown and its culture.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s that great of an idea, based on the fact you’re killing the culture, so it doesn’t seem like a great idea in the direction it’s headed.”

He adds, “What I’m hearing from customers is they’ve already made a lot of changes to the square that people are kind of opposed to. 11:34 and if you walk around you can see businesses effected by it, boards on the windows, etc.”

But Judge Wood doubts a new court complex would hurt downtown.

“We wouldn’t vacate this building (the courthouse), we would continue to use this building for other court business.”

It might seem like a big issue all its own, but the court complex is not the only thing up for discussion Friday. The commissioners are also exploring merging all 911 dispatching into one county call center.

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