HOUSTON, Texas — Jury duty in Harris County means a trip downtown and underground again.
The Harris County Jury Assembly Plaza reopened Monday following an extensive renovation due to damage suffered in Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
“We’ve been assured it will never flood again,” said Harris County District Clerk Marilyn Burgess.
A giant flood door worked during Harvey but other issues could not keep parts of the courthouse complex dry.
"It’s been a very long time coming back,” said Burgess during a tour with KHOU 11 News.
Burgess, who was elected after the historic flood, has overseen the jury assembly plaza’s $12 million resurrection.
“FEMA paid for everything that was existing, to build it back like it was," said Burgess. "Anything that we added to it, the county had to pay for it.”
Jury duty is back in the building after temporarily relocating to NRG Park and another county facility.
Upgrades include new painted block walls instead of sheetrock that tends to soak up water. Seating and other furnishings can also be hosed down, if needed.
"You walk straight out of here into the tunnels where you don’t have to get out into the elements to reach the courtroom that you’re going to,” said Burgess.
Accessibility was part of the reason the assembly rooms were built underground about a decade ago while adding extra greenspace over what was a surface parking lot.
"Jury service is the cornerstone of our justice system,” said Burgess.
More than 100,000 people report for jury duty every year in Harris County. Right now, COVID protocols are keeping numbers around 520 per day which will triple when things are back to normal.
Meantime, repairs and additions to the criminal courthouse and tunnel system should be completed by August which marks the fifth anniversary of Harvey.