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Suspicious overnight fire is latest mishap for crumbling courthouse

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The old Nueces County courthouse is protected from demolition until 2026. The old Nueces County courthouse is protected from demolition until 2026.
CORPUS CHRISTI -

An overnight fire is the latest in a string of mishaps for the old Nueces County Courthouse downtown.

The Corpus Christi fire department put it out quickly, and there was minimal damage.

A spokesman for the department called it "suspicious", because with only minimal electricity in the building, there's almost no explanation other than arson.

Nueces County Public Works Director Glen Sullivan agrees, especially after recent reports of vandals or vagrants in the area.

"Within the last week, we've been getting reports that someone or some group of people have breached the fence, and so that has been going on just within the last few days," says Sullivan.

According to Sullivan, county workers inspect the old courthouse at least once a week.

It is fenced in, there are a few security lights, and nearly a dozen orange "No Trespassing" signs from CCPD scattered around the lawn.

There is also an alarm system, although it was damaged by recent rain coming through the roof.

County records indicate that about $15,000 is spent every year to maintain and secure the property.

But despite the county's efforts, vandals and the homeless continue to find ways inside, whether by going over or underneath the fence through gaps.

Sullivan believes the building is as secure as it can be within reason.

"We would like to think it is. Short of having an armed guard there all the time, nothing is going to be totally 100% secure."

Sadly, county officials may never know what started the fire, because CCFD fire investigators were instructed not to go inside due to the structural instability.

While at the scene overnight, firefighters discovered loose bricks in the walls where the fire broke out.

According to Nueces County Commissioner Mike Pusley, the instability was among several arguments city and county leaders used a few years ago in an effort to convince the Texas Historical Commission to lift the restriction on demolition in place until 2026.

Pusley brought in an engineer to perform a study of the building, which revealed that

The group argued that no one is going to pay the $40 million needed to make the building stable again.

But after a review of the situation, the THC said no, which ensures the building will continue to crumble, or burn, until 2026.

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