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First steps taken to preserve historic jail, courthouse

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Aware of their stewardship of two architectural and historical jewels, Bandera County Commissioners approved much-needed roof repairs on the 1881 jail.

The jail, located adjacent to the county's 1877 courthouse on 12th Street, formerly housed offices of the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District.

In June 2010, the BCRAGD moved to newly remodeled offices on FM 3240.

In addition, offices for Justices of the Peace for Precincts 1 and 4 were located in the 1877 courthouse until July 2011. At that time, they moved to a recently renovated office building on Hackberry Street, sharing the duplex with the county auditor, indigent healthcare and human resources.

However, both historic buildings on 12th Street remain vacant at this time.

"Before we explore the best uses for these buildings, we have to fix the roof," said County Judge Richard Evans during a regular meeting on Thursday, Feb. 9.

Doyle Haner, community service supervisor, said he had received just one bid for the roof repairs. The company, Parsons Commercial Roofing, has previously done roofing work for the county.

"They said basically, the roof was structurally sound, but they would cover it with insulation and a membrane," He told the court. "The work will cost $15,518 and has a 15 year warranty."

Previously, the company had completed county roofing projects on the courthouse annex, tax office and county attorney's office.

Noting the roof on the 1881 jail had developed significant leaks, Haner continued, "The leaks inside the building are causing problems and will continue to cause problems until the situation is corrected." He added, however, a core sample indicated the roof's structural integrity remained intact.

"It's reaching a critical mass that if we don't do something it will rot out," Evans observed.

After approving the roofing contract, commissioners then turned to possible uses for the buildings, which might include headquarters for the Bandera County Historical Commission and offices for the Bandera County Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as a possible adjunct for the Frontier Times Museum.

"There are lots of options and we're looking for some direction and guidance - if not definitive answers," Evans said. "We have questions but don't expect answers."

Precinct 4 Commissioner Doug King pointed out, "The buildings need to be occupied in some form so they don't deteriorate.

Evans foresaw using the buildings and property to generate activity and become an economic driver for the community. The court did not want the historic structures to morph into "just storage areas."

"These buildings are historically significant to this community - too significant to allow them to deteriorate. This was the first courthouse in Bandera County," Evans said.

Both he and County Clerk Candy Wheeler advocated displaying a portion of the county's significant historic documents in the buildings.

Early county records are currently being stored at Mansfield Park.

"We have the original bond that was passed to build the courthouse, as well as (original) city plats," Wheeler said.

"The county has historical documents that the State of Texas would like to have," King added.

When apprised that the area had been included in the City of Bandera's Master Plan, Evans said dryly, "It would have been nice if (the county) had been included in that master plan process."

In fact, Urban Designs Associates, the company that prepared the original version of the master plan, failed to differentiate properties that were owned by the city, county and private individuals.

Elenora Dugosh Goodley, a member of the county historical commission, felt the building would be perfect to highlight the Bandera County Sister-County Partnership with Poland. "We have lovely gifts given to us by Polish dignitaries that are in a storage bin right now," she said.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Bruce Eliker suggested putting feelers out to stakeholders and soliciting proposals for the buildings.

"We want to look at all options, not just the historical commission," Evans said.

King was appointed as liaison for the project from commissioners court, assisted by Precinct 3 Commission Richard Keese.

"This area should help with economic development," Evans said, advising his colleagues to "look at all the options and make the best decision and report back to the court in six weeks."

Meanwhile architect Rudy Rodriguez will complete drawings of both historic buildings for future reference.

Pictured: Photo by Doug King
Repairs will begin soon on the roof of Bandera County's first jail, built in 1881.

Currently, Bandera County's 1881 jail is unoccupied, but plans are in place to offer space within the historic structure to city and county stakeholders.