Smith County commissioners discuss facilities needs, plans


Smith County commissioners say that upcoming capital improvement projects will focus on areas the public sees, rather than the behind-the-scenes upgrades and renovations undertaken in recent years.

"People don't always come to our offices, where we have some nice facilities," Commissioner Jeff Warr said. "But people do have to come to jury duty. If we can get that done, I think it would go a long way for the public to see that we're investing in the places that they're going to be."

On Tuesday, commissioners appointed a facilities committee and discussed several potential projects - including renovating the bathrooms in the Smith County Courthouse and redesigning the Justice Precinct 2 courtroom in Noonday.

Commissioners voted to seek an architect for the courthouse bathrooms project – a step made necessary by the courthouse's state designation as an historical building.

"We have to get approval from the state, and get inspected, before we can even start that project," Facilities Manager Steve Christian said.

On the Precinct 2 courtroom, Constable Andy Dunklin said that because of poor design, some jurors can't see the witness stand. And as that office is renovated, the Smith County Tax Office could open a full-service substation there as well, according to Tax Assessor/Collector Gary Barber.

"The office is certainly large enough for two personnel," Dunklin said.

Renovating the courtroom would cost an estimated $11,000, according to Christian.

"We need to do this and move on," said Commissioner Terry Phillips.

Other projects discussed in a workshop included some items in the old Smith County Jail, some needed repairs to the Cotton Belt Building's roof, the as-yet unfinished Crescent Laundry Building (the portion not dedicated to the new animal shelter), the central jury parking lot, and the Gulf State Lumber complex, which was purchased with an eye toward using it for storing county records.

County Judge Nathaniel Moran said the goal of the committee will be the work through the costs and details of the proposed improvements. The committee - consisting of Moran, Christian, Auditor Ann Wilson, Purchasing Director Kim Gould and County Administrator Leonardo Brown - will report back to commissioners.

"Ultimately, this body (commissioners court) will make the final decisions," Moran said.

Commissioners will not meet next Tuesday, but will convene on Friday for a public hearing on a proposed tax abatement package for GG Distributing.

Twitter: @tmt_roy

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