Despite love of design, Smith County commissioners push back plans for new courthouse

Local News

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Smith County commissioners announced Wednesday that despite an impressive design presented for a new courthouse, a ballot measure for residents to vote on would not happen this year.

At the start of the decade, Judge Nathaniel Moran said that the courthouse would be the major project for the county.

An architectural group presented a detailed plan for a seven-story building that spanned more than 230,000 square feet. If a parking garage is added, the total cost of the plan would total roughly $140 million.

With the financial strain put on many East Texas families during the pandemic, the court felt that putting such an expensive issue on the ballot this year would be ill-advised.

Moran addressed the court saying that the biggest concern for nearly everyone involved was updating security features that the current courthouse lacks.

For instance, there are only two small bathrooms on the main floor. This means that everyone from family members, defendants, jurors, etc. has to use the same facilities.

There is also a noticeable lack of safe entry into the building for staff members and judges away form the general public.

New features for the building would include a secure parking garage and elevators for workers as well as private restrooms for jury members. There will also be protected areas that keep incoming inmates away from the public when they enter the courtroom.

The presentation also showed that the courtroom will plan for future population growth, unlike the current building decades ago.

The new facility can hold up to 12 courtrooms while the current courthouse has eight. However when it was built, it held only half of that. Many of the current courtrooms were made in makeshift areas, such as the 241st District Court under Judge Jack Skeen which used to hold the law library.

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