The proposed Hempstead County Farmers Bank courthouse deal can still be worked out, and at least one Justice said Hempstead County could afford to purchase the building outright, if need be.

The proposed Hempstead County Farmers Bank courthouse deal can still be worked out, and at least one Justice said Hempstead County could afford to purchase the building outright, if need be.
Justice Ed Darling, the latest Quorum Court member to speak on the controversy, said in an interview prior to the Labor Day weekend, “I’ve talked to the principals involved, and while there was a breakdown in communication, I think, if possible, that we must move forward on this — even if it may not be exactly as it was originally presented.”
Darling conceded that “Somewhere along the way there was a change from the original resolution we passed to what we were presented. I believe there was a breakdown in communication, but the bottom line to me is, that if we can afford it, then we need to do it.”
Darling said that the county had transferred $1.7 million in February as a set aside for the proposed Farmer’s building purchase; the funds were placed in a special CD at the Bank of Tom Bean.
“There are instances were a bank will waive the penalty on early withdrawal on a CD, but I think given the circumstances, we can certainly discuss it with them,” Darling said. Based on the available transfer funds, Darling believes the county could pay the $1.5 million outright.
On another aspect of the deal, in which Farmer’s Bank would remain in the building and pay rent for 18 months while their new bank facility was constructed, Darling said “I don’t think the county wants to be a landlord for 18 months, so that part of the deal will have to be re-examined. If they cannot construct something else until until the deal is closed, then maybe we agree to the deal but transfer the title or deed over until later, when it is time for them to move out.”
Darling also said the he see the county with a healthy cash flow with as much as a $1 million surplus, plus he said more surplus money would be available 18-to-24 months from now.
“I think we will still be in good shape to fund those renovations, whether they come in at $1.2 or $1.7 million,” he said.
In a previous interview with the Hope Star, Justice Cherry Stewart said she wanted a special-called meeting, and Darling agreed saying, “I think we are going to have to meet sooner than later. Waiting another month on this doesn’t make any sense.”
“A formal offer is still on the table, and we need to decide if we are going to pursue it.  We need to collect as much information as possible, and chart a way to move forward,” he said.
Darling added that “If we go in another direction, like building something on our own land, then we are looking at $7 or $8 million for a brand new and serviceable courthouse.  The sentiment I’ve gotten from people is to move forward with Farmer’s Bank, and find a way to make it with with them. I may be taking an optimistic view, but I think we can work this out.”
Stewart had also mentioned that constituent feedback that she has gotten this week has been a mix of surprise that the bank changed the deal, but for the county to go back and renegotiate with bank and save the deal.
“People generally see would like see the courthouse there; they don’t understand what happened, and frankly, I still don’t understand what happened myself,” she said.
As the new deal emerged to the surprise of the Justices at the last Quorum Court meeting, Justice Lynn Montgomery had another view of the events, saying “They (Farmer’s) voided the deal when they came up with that new proposal.  That is not what we agreed to. We were told something else, and we agreed to something else.”
“It’s a whole new ballgame now as far as I’m concerned, and we should enter new negotiations, or now, I would say, we still have the option of building a new courthouse on land we already own, he said.