GALVESTON

Eight years after selling a large parcel of county land on Galveston Island, the county is nearing a deal to repurchase the undeveloped land for a potential expansion of the county justice department.

Galveston County Commissioners on Friday unanimously voted to send a letter of intent to Lowe’s Companies Inc., which owns about 11 acres of land along Broadway in Galveston between 59th and 54th streets in Galveston.

“We would like to purchase this property,” Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said.

The county sold the same piece of land to Lowe’s for $3.1 million in 2011, but the company never developed it.

The county had been discussing details about a potential purchase for about a month, but all of those discussions have been in closed executive sessions. Friday was the first day officials spoke openly about the deal.

“They sent us a letter of intent on Monday afternoon, and we’ve just voted to agree to negotiate that letter of intent,” Henry said. “There’s a couple of points that we’d like to ask for some help on. We’ll see what they say.”

The county’s proposal to buy the land came after Lowe’s hired a real estate company to help sell the property and put it up for auction on May 16, Henry said.

The county submitted a single offer on the property and did not participate in any bidding on it, Henry said.

Henry didn’t know whether Lowe’s received any other bids on the property, he said.

The county and the company had exchanged proposals about a price for the property, but the county did not release any details about the cost or other parts of the sale on Friday, Henry said.

The county intended to pay less for the property than it had originally sold it for, if you adjust the value based on the consumer price index, Henry said.

The county wants to purchase the land as a potential site for new offices for parts of Galveston County’s justice division.

Many of the county’s legal offices, including the district attorney’s office and the district clerk’s office, are in the Galveston County Justice Center, just north of the Broadway property.

In addition to building an office with more room for the existing departments, the county is in the process of expanding its legal offices because of the ongoing lawsuit over Galveston’s pre-trial detention procedures.

In April 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas filed a lawsuit accusing the county of running a bond system that discriminates against low-income people.

In response to the allegations made in the lawsuit, the county hired more magistrate judges in order to hold more frequent bail judgment hearings.

Earlier this week, the county hired a new director for its personal bond office, which analyzes and issues recommendations on whether a person can and should be released on bond, and provides that information to magistrate judges to help them make bail decisions.

That hiring is the first step to reorganizing that office, officials said.

County officials also have talked about creating a public defenders office, or a similar-type department for managing indigent defense. If that happened, the county would need more space as well, Henry said.

“There’s no question we’re going to need more space at the justice center,” Henry said.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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