BONHAM — After Fannin County was selected to receive $5 million through the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, county officials are creating a plan to present to voters about how they want to restore the courthouse. It would involve seeking additional funding and possibly building a justice center.

BONHAM — After Fannin County was selected to receive $5 million through the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, county officials are creating a plan to present to voters about how they want to restore the courthouse. It would involve seeking additional funding and possibly building a justice center.


Fannin County Judge Creta Carter said by Aug. 22, language for a ballot measure will be submitted and a plan will be created outlining the costs of a full historic renovation for the courthouse in Bonham. The preservation program is operated by the Texas Historical Commission, which awarded matching grants totaling more than $20 million to eight counties to help in the preservation of historic courthouses. Four of the grants were for full historic restorations, which Fannin was selected to receive, along with Karnes, Lynn and San Saba counties.


A full historic restoration would cost about $16.7 million, Carter said, requiring the county seek additional funding to make the project possible. Restoring the courthouse back to its former grandeur would decrease the amount of space currently in use, so constructing a justice center in the city is also an option the county is exploring.


"You’re going to lose a lot of room; if you do that you basically have to go build something else," Carter said. "So you can’t just do one without doing something else in the near future."


Carter said about a third of space would be lost as the former layout of the courthouse had larger rooms with a balcony located on the third floor that overlooked the courtroom. During this month, county officials are looking for the best option on how to approach the renovation and how to get the additional space they’re going to lose with the renovation. Carter said there are many ways to go about this and many ways to construct a justice center to meet the county’s needs.


"It was one of the nicest courthouses in Texas," Carter said. "If this gets done, it would definitely be a boost for Fannin County and definitely a boost for Bonham because I think it would make people want to restore these old buildings around the courthouse. That’s typically what happened in these other communities where they’ve done that."


The original courthouse constructed in 1888 had a clock tower that was destroyed in a fire in 1929. Following the fire, the courthouse was remodeled. The courthouse saw another remodel to its facade in 1966, which gave the building its current look. Carter said the original building looked nothing like it does today, and a full restoration is possible.


"I think we can find a way to do it, but we have to put a good plan together," Carter said.


The Fannin County commissioners discussed the renovation and took public comment during their meeting Tuesday. The courthouse renovation will stay on the court’s agenda for each meeting until the November election, when voters will decide whether to go forward with the project. Carter said the agenda item will allow the public to voice concerns and will keep the discussion progressing.


Richard Glaser, Fannin County Criminal District Attorney, said the county has been looking into restoring the courthouse for many years. Glaser addressed the commissioners and said it was topic of discussion when he was the legal adviser for the Fannin County Commissioners Court in the early 2000s. He said the cost for such a renovation will keep going up every year, and with the grant money available, now is a good time to make the renovation happen.


"I don’t think in the future it’s going to get any cheaper," Glaser said. "We sort of got an opportunity here to take advantage of something. It’s a windfall; it like winning the lottery."


The $5 million is coming from the state, and people want to see that money go into the courthouse for restoration, he said.


"This is good for the community and people in Texas recognize this," Glaser said. "I find it difficult to get a grip on why anybody else would not see that this is a good thing."


During the next few weeks, Carter said he will be working to find the specifics of what it’s going to take to make the restoration happened — how much money will the county need to borrow, what the interest rates are going to be, and what the language on the ballot will look like.


"This has got to come from the people," Carter said. "We have to put this out for a vote, and whatever the people decide that’s what we’re going to do."


The next step is presenting it to the residents of Fannin County. Carter said in September and October, he is going to go across the county and talk to civic groups and city councils to get the word out. He said he’s confident once people have accurate information, they’ll make the right decision come November. County officials have to inform THC on if they’re going to accept the money by the end of November.


If the county doesn’t accept the funding, another opportunity like this may never come, Carter said.


"If we don’t restore it now, I don’t believe it will ever get restored," Carter said.


Glaser said he wants to see the commissioners support the restoration and be united in their presentation to the people of Fannin County.


"I want the commissioners court to bond together to be a single unit to sell this," Glaser said. "… I want you all to get together and sell this because it’s the right thing to do and it’s a good thing to do for Fannin County."