Piece of Mind: Courthouse Work Progressing
Fannin County Judge Randy Moore sounds like a happy man these days.
And why not? A project he inherited when he took office in 2019 is inching closer to completion … and it’s a big one: the restoration of the 1888-era county courthouse in downtown Bonham.
“Everyone’s getting excited,” Moore said about the work on the courthouse that is progressing. He said the installation of windows on the second and third floors of the courthouse structure has drawn particular interest among passersby, not to mention county employees who he hopes will be moving into the renovated structure by the end of the year.
“The windows are being fitted exactly” for the frames into which they will be installed, Moore said.
The county obtained a $6 million Texas Historical Preservation grant to help fund part of the project, but then received voter approval of a $21 million bond issue in 2018 to pay for the rest of it. Moore came into office in early 2019 and has been on the watch as crews gutted the entire structure from top to bottom. Every room on every floor was stripped bare.
Moore said the Commissioners Court appointed Precinct 4 Commissioner Dean Lackey to oversee construction of the project, which had been projected to be finished by this October. Circumstances – such as the pandemic and some nasty spring weather this year – have delayed the opening and eventual courthouse dedication until December, Moore said.
Moore said the spring rain turned the construction site into a “muddy mess” and had actually more of an impact on the progress of the work than the pandemic.
Moore is unsure when the county will dedicate formally the completed courthouse, but he is hopeful it will be sometime in March 2022. “If we’re going to have it completed by December,” he said, “weather might not be in our favor.”
As Moore looks at the courthouse work, he is heartened by the knowledge that crews are installing the metal roof. However, he said “there will be standing room only in the streets” when crews erect what the 50-foot-tall clock tower that will go atop the completed roof. “You’ll be able to see it for miles around,” Moore said. “The finished roof will glisten,” Moore added.
The delay in construction completion means the county is putting its emphasis on “quality,” Moore said.
“Look, we’re restoring this thing back to 1888,” when it was first built, said Moore, calling the Fannin County restoration project “the most restored courthouse in the state of Texas,” meaning that it, according to Moore, will have been rebuilt more completely than any other of the projects approved by the Historical Commission.
Most of the county offices will be returning to the courthouse when it is completed, Moore said. “We want the courthouse to be used,” he said. And it will.
Moore said the Commissioners Court will have its meetings in the old building, which also will house court at law, justice of the peace, the county auditor, purchasing agent, the county judge’s office, the treasurer’s office, the bailiff’s office and some conference rooms.
The district attorney and the district clerk’s office “will be off-site,” he said, adding that “some of the county clerk’s office functions” will return to the old courthouse.
Commissioner Lackey calls the construction “a process, but it’s coming together.”
Lackey said he owns a general contractor business “that my sons now run.” Lackey said he’s been “involved in construction for a lot of my life, so I know a little bit about this kind of thing.”
He agreed with Hughes about the interest that will occur when the clock tower goes up. “They’ll have to shut down the town when they put that thing up,” he said.
“The courthouse is going to be a really good thing for the city and the county,” Lackey said. “This will be an exciting time.”
John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, also is a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is retired but is still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis’s blog for KETR, “Piece of Mind,” presents his views and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff or its members.
Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.