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Commissioners inch closer to repairing courthouse sidewalk

It's been almost two years since Susan Vaughan fell forward onto the sidewalk around the Courthouse on the Square.  

The Denton resident's toe got caught in a cracked portion of the battered walkway in January 2016, and she paid $9,000, including the cost of surgery and follow-up care, to repair four damaged teeth. Three months after her fall, Denton resident Yvette Spicer broke her arm after tripping and falling on the 82-year-old sidewalk. 

Vaughan is still fighting the county over compensation for her out-of-pocket medical expenses, but both women have pushed for the sidewalk's repair since their injuries. The discussion nudged commissioners to act. 

Now, commissioners are poised to submit the permit application for a $223,000 sidewalk repair project to the Texas Historical Commission for approval. The courthouse, including the lawn and sidewalk, is a state antiquities landmark and commissioners need approval from the THC to make any changes. Commissioners are expected to approve the submission during Tuesday's regular meeting. 

If the THC awards the permit, construction is expected to start in spring. 

"It took our falls to press on them that they need to move ahead," Vaughan said. "And I've been adamant about not going away."  

Commissioner Andy Eads, who's been facilitating the project, said he didn't know how quickly construction would start after the county gets the permit. Teaque Nall and Perkins Inc., a civil engineering, surveying and landscape architecture firm, created the designs and projected budget. But the project hasn't been bid out for construction yet.   

Several portions of the sidewalk are either disjointed or cracked. That's why the entire walkway that borders the courthouse lawn will be replaced, including the portion in front of the Confederate monument, according to documents supplied to commissioner by TNP. The four walkways leading to the courthouse will remain largely untouched. Meanwhile, about half of the inner portion of the sidewalk, which sits inside the lawn and circles the courthouse, also will be replaced. 

Demolition and site preparation is expected to cost about $68,000, while reconstruction will likely total $120,000, according to TNP's cost projections. The company allotted an additional $15,000 for restoration and contingency cost. 

Currently, the city of Denton is installing ADA compliant ramps to the corner of the sidewalks, though the county has taken ownership of the walkway. 

Peggy Riddle, director of the Denton County Office of History and Culture, said the sidewalks were built about 1935 by the Works Progress Administration, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt created to provide work for victims of the Great Depression. 

County Judge Mary Horn doesn't expect any issues in getting the permit from the historical commission. 

"We've been communicating with them up to this point, but this is the formal application, which I have no doubt they will approve," Horn said. 

JULIAN GILL can be reached at 940-566-6882.