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Smith County commissioners call for November bond election to fund proposed courthouse

The current courthouse was built in 1955 with plans to hold two courtrooms, but it now holds seven.

TYLER, Texas — Smith County commissioners voted Tuesday morning to put a $179 million bond for a new courthouse and parking garage on the Nov. 8 ballot. 

Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran called for the bond, which was then approved by the commissioners in a 4 to 1 vote.  Pct. 3 Commissioner Terry Phillips was the lone opposition. 

After several Smith County citizens spoke in favor and against the bond election, commissioners voted on calling for the election.

The issue had been removed from the November 2020 ballot due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Phillips noted inflation and the current economy as his reason for opposing the bond election in November. He said that while a new courthouse is needed, it's not the right time.

Pct. 1 Commissioner Neal Franklin, who will become Smith County judge in January, said November is the right time 

"Our job is to put it out to vote," Franklin said. 

Moran said that the commissioners' vote is just procedural and the court should allow the voters the opportunity to make a decision on the county courthouse.

He added that if the court was to wait, prices for building would only rise. The commissioners court has also been a good steward of the taxpayers' money. 

"We remain strong here economically (despite national setbacks and issues)," Moran said, noting there will always be a reason to postpone a bond vote.

During an Aug. 1 input meeting for citizens, Moran said the main purpose of having a new courthouse is space for safety and security. The current courthouse was built in 1955 with plans to hold two courtrooms, but it now holds seven.

“The citizens of Smith County should have the opportunity to make this decision and determine the future of their courthouse,” he said last week. “It’s their money and their courthouse.”

Moran said there have been multiple plans and committees to evaluate the need for a new courthouse for over 20 years. In 2020, Fitzpatrick Architects created plans for a new courthouse following meetings held by Moran and the commissioners. 

If approved, the bond is expected to raise taxes by 3.67 cents. This would lead to an increase on tax bills of $73.40 per year for a $200,000 home, the Smith County statement read. 

Moran said the commissioners plan to hold community meetings this summer and into the fall to inform and answer questions about the courthouse. 

RELATED: Smith County judge to ask commissioners to place new courthouse proposal on November ballot

RELATED: Smith County commissioners begin input meetings for courthouse bond proposal

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