Congress to decide fate of new federal courthouse in SA

Bill earmarks $135 million to replace current facility

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar on Wednesday announced that $135 million has been earmarked as part of a 2016 appropriations bill to construct a new federal courthouse in San Antonio.

"As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, funding the San Antonio courthouse construction was a priority of mine," Cuellar said in a news release. “The inclusion of the funding for a new federal courthouse will allow for better administration of justice as the current building was never intended for this purpose.

The current John H. Wood Jr. U.S. Courthouse in San Antonio was built nearly 50 years ago as a theater to host part of the 1968 World's Fair. The building was later converted to a federal courthouse, for which U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez said it's not designed.

"It was a theater and never meant to be a federal courthouse, so we've had continuous security problems as a result of that," Rodriguez said.

The building also has water problems, asbestos issues and insect infestations.

"I think I can speak on behalf of my staff that we are willing to put up with a few more fleas for a couple of years looking forward to this building finally being built," Rodriguez said.

In a land swap deal with the federal government, the city of San Antonio will take over the property where the current courthouse was built.

"We have a master plan to redevelop that area to include several signature parks for the city," Mayor Ivy Taylor said. "One of them has already been constructed and is actually in close proximity to the courthouse site."

Congress is expected to vote on the nearly $948 million appropriations bill sometime this week.

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