Smith County commissioners weigh pros, cons of potential courthouse locations

List of locations narrowed down to five
Published: Jan. 28, 2020 at 10:51 PM CST
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TYLER, TEXAS (KLTV) - Smith County commissioners are trying to narrow down their list of possible locations for a proposed new courthouse.

At the end of Tuesday’s court meeting, commissioners had their second workshop to discuss where the new courthouse would be located. The court is currently looking at five different possibilities. Each of the locations were scored with a number of advantages by the architects, who were present at Tuesday’s workshop.

  • East Side of Square: The most advantages (850) were found on the east side of the square. This space is currently occupied by several buildings on the east side of the current courthouse. According to commissioners, advantages for this site include the possibility of keeping the current courthouse and maintaining a short tunnel length from the jail to the courthouse. They also believe staging would be easier and associated costs would be lower. Disadvantages of this location include forcing out 11 property owners and destroying several historic buildings.
  • Reunified Square Elongated and Compact: These two possible sites would both require the permanent closure of Broadway Avenue. There are two possibilities for this location, one of them a more compact building, and the other elongated. The elongated plan scored higher (740) than the compact plan (700). Pros include the fact that the county would not have to buy the property from a private owner. Commissioners also said surveys show community members prefer this centralized location. Cons listed by commissioners include the closure of Broadway Avenue, effects on downtown businesses, and the requirement of four “grand” sides all around the building.
  • Juror Parking: On the other side of Fannin Avenue, there is the possible location of juror parking, which was scored with 700 advantages. Benefits listed by commissioners include the ability to keep the current courthouse and the fact that Broadway Avenue wouldn’t be affected along with any businesses. Cons listed include the railroad running right in front of the building and the possible related issues affecting the proposed jail tunnel. The county would also have to buy up five pieces of private property.
  • County-Owned Property: This location (scored at 575) was proposed by Commissioner Jeff Warr. The property currently occupies the county elections office and other county facilities. The pros listed include the opportunity to keep the current courthouse and keep Broadway Avenue open. Commissioners said this location would require the relocation of four county-owned buildings and historic buildings along East Ferguson. There’d also have to construct a very lengthy jail tunnel.

Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran hopes to narrow down that list even further at the next workshop on Feb. 11. The county hopes to call a vote on a proposed plan in November.

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