Until at least October of 2020, the only work inside the Fannin County Courthouse building in Bonham’s downtown square will be of the restoration kind. The county is set to get to work before year’s end on the $17 million project to restore the 128-year-old courthouse to its former glory.
But before renovation work begins, Fannin County officials need to figure out which of the nearly two dozen county departments will be housed inside the courthouse when it reopens in three years.
"The first thing we have to decide is who’s going back in, and then after we make that decision we have to decide whether to build one building or two," said County Judge Spanky Carter speaking to a full house during the Commissioner’s Court’s regular meeting Tuesday.
Carter said he personally would like to see a justice center built to house the courts, district attorney’s office, and possibly adult probation office. A second building could house other government services such as the environment commission.
The Fannin County Historical Commission has said it wants to see county offices return to the courthouse. That includes the county judge, commissioner’s court, civil court, and the office housing land records.
Throughout this year, county offices have moved out of the courthouse and into other buildings in Bonham. Right now there are six satellite offices housing county operations, from juvenile probation to the county clerk.
The Commissioner’s Court will be taking public input on which offices should return to the courthouse. Tuesday’s meeting formally opened public discussion on the matter. The commissioners set a 60-day deadline to figure out which departments will occupy the courthouse.
For its part, the public was not shy in demanding they have input. But some, like county resident Mike Natek, worry that the short deadline and lack of guidelines about the kinds of input the commissioners want will not give citizens enough time to really have a say.
"We can’t wait 30 days, 60 days to get the information because we’re beyond the deadline," Natek said.
Commissioner Dean Lackey tried to calm some worries about what the commissioners were looking for.
"We’re not looking for you to try to figure out how many square feet each office needs contained for district clerk or county clerk," Lackey said. "I think we’re looking more for what offices would you like to see back in that courthouse."
Some residents say the commissioner’s court should build a special committee of residents and civic leaders to help figure out who goes where when the courthouse reopens in the fall of 2020.