Cuellar: Committee gives priority to new federal courthouse in McAllen

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, announced Tuesday that a key committee will recommend McAllen as a priority for a new federal courthouse.

The recommendation from the Judicial Conference of U.S. Courts backs a completed feasibility study and inclusion — meaning the city will be considered as a priority to receive a new facility, according to a news release.

“This announcement from the Judicial Conference is another important step toward the new courthouse facilities that McAllen needs and deserves,” Cuellar said in the release. “I will continue to fight for this for my constituents. I am grateful for the support of Sens. (John) Cornyn and (Ted) Cruz, Reps. (Vicente) Gonzalez and (Filemon) Vela, Mayor Jim Darling, and Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa. This has been a team effort and their cooperation has been essential. I would also like to thank GSA and the Administrative Office of the Courts for their work on this.”

The congressman, who directed the U.S. General Services Administration to study the issue, has led the charge for a new courthouse facility for more than seven years, the release states.

In April, a 23-page study conducted by the GSA concluded that while the current facility located on U.S. Business 83 may be adequate for certain federal executive offices, the existing building is inadequate for judicial functions.

Bentsen Tower, where the courts have leased space since 1987, does not and cannot provide adequate space for the courts, the study found.

Additional findings included security being an overall issue, especially regarding secure separation of judges, the public and prisoners. There is also not adequate room in the lobby for proper security screening.

This study is the result of a congressional directive inserted into a bill by Cuellar, whose district extends into western Hidalgo County. The study evaluated the current building and offered four options.

The federal government currently leases room in McAllen to house 95 percent of its agencies, and it does not own a federal office building or U.S. Courthouse in McAllen, according to the study.

The four options the study laid out cost between $107 million and $110 million. However, the study did not account for the city of McAllen offering land for the project and included land acquisition costs in its estimates.

The recommendation from the GSA was a crucial step in advancing the new courthouse plans.