Smith County's potential downtown upgrades

Released by Smith County:

TYLER, TX - The Smith County Commissioners Court received and discussed a Master Facilities Update during a regular meeting Monday morning. The presentation covered facilities improvements made over the past year, current projects that are under construction and tentative plans for future facilities.

"This presentation is an update on what we are doing to maintain our facilities, what projects are currently under way and some future dreams that we have," County Judge Joel Baker said.

Over the past year, improvements to the Smith County Courthouse, Courthouse Annex, various Justice of the Peace Buildings and County parking lots have been paid for in cash through the County's PAYGO program.

"These are small improvements that add up to a visible difference and we have received positive feedback from the public and our employees" Judge Baker said.

PAYGO Improvements made in 2009 include:

  • Courthouse basement restoration
  • Grand Jury Room Remodel
  • Creation of a victim/witness secure waiting room
  • Chemical cleaning of the Courthouse exterior
  • Replacement of all Courthouse windows with bulletproof or energy efficient glass
  • Courthouse lawn landscaping
  • Secure waiting area in Commissioners Court lobby
  • Repaving of the Courthouse Annex and Cotton Belt Building parking lots
  • Renovations to Justice of the Peace office buildings
  • And many more

"These results show that the County is taking care of its facilities now, so we do not have to make expensive repairs later," Pct. 2 Commissioner Bill McGinnis said.

Major current construction projects discussed in the presentation included the new Sheriff's Administrative Building at the Spring Avenue and Locust Street, scheduled for completion in early 2010. In the near future, the County will also renovate and expand several properties on Ferguson Street to house JP and Constable Offices for Pct. 1, Adult Probation and Pre-Trial Release Offices. A new building for JP 4 in Winona has also been purchased and is awaiting renovations.

"The people demand that we be responsible with our planning and that we have the best interests of our citizens in mind. These types of plans show we are doing just that," Pct. 1 Commissioner Jeff Warr said.

Concept drawings of some "hopes and dreams" projects were also a part of the presentation, which includes a four-story downtown parking garage – a concept that Judge Baker says is wishful thinking right now, but could be plausible in the next five – 10 years. Judge Baker said a feasibility study is in the works that will show where this type of parking facility will be needed and if it can be tied into light rail and other types of urban transportation options.

"We are branching out beyond this courtroom, and we are reaching to the community for ideas and future planning," Pct. 4 Commissioner JoAnn Hampton added. "There are parties throughout the state that are interested in this type of transportation development in Smith County."

Also included in the presentation were concept drawings of how to work the five fire-damaged properties located at 111-119 Spring Avenue into the County's future plans. An engineering study recently revealed that the historic facades of the buildings can be preserved while a functional building is constructed behind them.