Commissioners approve contract related to future projects in Smith County

East Texas News at 6.
Updated: Jul. 9, 2019 at 5:18 PM CDT
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SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - Smith County commissioners took a step toward preparing for the future on Tuesday by approving a service agreement that will take a close look at how buildings like the Smith County Courthouse are being used, and how renovations would improve county properties.

In unanimous fashion, county commissioners Tuesday morning agreed that Smith County was growing and it was time to prepare. Commissioners approved hiring a management firm that would help the county plan future projects.

“As projects arise, that they would involved early on in the process to help us determine true cost, true needs, things like that, other than hoping we’re doing it right," said Jeff Warr, Pct. 1 county commissioner.

Such improvements include the focus of the county’s judicial system. The current Smith County courthouse was built in the 1950s.

Warr said stakeholders have discussed building a new courthouse for some time, but if voters reject the idea, county commissioners would need to look at how they could improve on the current building’s use.

“Safety is your number one concern; the design that’s in our courthouse now would in no way pass the design of today’s standards," Warr explained.

“As you know, on rainy days all the jurors have to wait outside in the rain before they come through security. There’s just a lot of functioning things we’ve looked at, and are continuing to look at ways that courthouse can be adapted to get more years out of it.”

Also on the county’s shortlist: moving records from the basement of Cotton Belt Building into a new location.

The county decided in January to lease extra space in the building to house low-income medical services. The idea is that the extra room could be put to better use.

“it’s good to have a plan early, early on, instead of shooting from the hip," Warr said.

A third recommendation included the aging Road and Bridges building.

“We’re looking at a new Road and Bridge-type facility. Ours is very, very old and is pretty dilapidated, so i think that will be one that will move up the list pretty quick," Warr added.

Each of the projects mentioned Tuesday were described as “long-term plans”, Warr said, but changes for all three buildings can be expected in the future.

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