Smith County commissioners call November bond election for new courthouse

Smith County commissioners voted Tuesday to call a November bond election for a new courthouse and parking garage.
Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 10:27 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2022 at 10:38 AM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Smith County commissioners voted Tuesday to call a November bond election for a new courthouse and parking garage.

The motion passed 4 to 1. Pct. 3 Commissioner Terry Phillips was the only commissioner to vote against putting the proposal on the ballot. Philips said he believes now is not the right time with a tough economic situation and soaring inflation.

Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran recommended both the $160 million courthouse and the $19 million parking garage be put together on the Nov. 8 ballot. The projected tax impact for the courthouse and parking structure would be 3.67 cents, resulting in an increase on tax bills of $73.40 per year for a $200,000 home.

If passed by voters, the new courthouse would replace the current 1955 courthouse, which was designed to include two courtrooms and now holds seven. Moran and other county officials have pointed out security problems with the current building and have said the new courthouse will be designed with a focus on safety and security.

The process first started in 2000 when a task force of community members came up with a master plan that showed the need for a new courthouse, parking structure, sheriff’s administration building and county jail. While a new sheriff’s administration building and jail were eventually built, the county’s 1955 courthouse remained.

Discussions about a new courthouse were revived in 2020 when architects designed a new courthouse following dozens of community and public meetings hosted the county judge and commissioners. Moran had planned on asking the court to call a bond election for the fall of 2020 but put the courthouse project on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new courthouse would be located on the east side of the downtown square, where the county has already acquired several properties. The parking structure would be built next to the current Smith County Courthouse Annex.

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