Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the cost of the courthouse. We regret the error.

TYLER, Texas (KETK) — After being put on hold because of the pandemic, plans to build a new Smith County courthouse are being discussed again.

Community members met at a town hall meeting to learn more about the bond proposal. The bond will be up to the community to vote for or against in the November election.

“There’s no room in the courthouse for what we are doing, and we are putting the public in jeopardy,” said Precinct 4 commissioner, JoAnn Hampton.

The $179 million proposal will build a new courthouse and closer parking garage. A closer parking area will allow jurors to not have to walk two blocks from the juror parking lot.

Community questions and concerns were heard at the town hall meeting.

“It’s an opportunity for the community to have input, to keep the commissioners from just doing it without citizens’ input. We always want our citizens to have input, so that’s why we are doing a bond election,” said Hampton.

The age of the building has led to questions about possible infrastructure, safety and security issues. If the bond is passed, the new courthouse will separate the entrances for the public, jurors and inmates.

“I had a daughter that was shot and I had to go to the courthouse. When you come through, people have to step to the side so the inmates can come by and he (the shooting suspect) was laughing. So that’s something I don’t want anyone to go through and I really would want that safety where you don’t have to see that,” said Lisa Williams, Smith County resident.

Opponents of the bond said there are other important issues that need to be addressed.

“We have people who cannot drink the water, we have people who can’t even flush their toilets, but they want to build what’s gonna end up costing $300 million for a courthouse,” said Precinct Chair, Mike Nichols.

The Commissioners Court stressed that this decision is for the voters to make.

“You have to decide yourself what will impact your pocketbook, but we think this is the time for the citizens to make that choice,” said Hampton.


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