News last week that after 20 years of an overcrowded courthouse, Smith County is purchasing property to build a new one, is a reminder of the move Henderson County made a decade ago.

After searching for years for the ideal space to put the overflow of Henderson County offices, Commissioners Court arrived with a solution. In February 2010, the county reached an agreement with Prosperity to purchase the building, with ideas of using it for offices and document-storage space. The cost was about $2.7 million.

In September 2011, the County Judge, County Clerk, Tax Assessor/ Collector, and other departments that had been in the Courthouse for nearly a century, relocated across South Prairieville Street to the Courthouse Annex, a 33,500 square-foot building that once housed the Prosperity Bank.

Then in October, Commissioners Court voted to begin holding meetings in the annex, first in a room next to the county judge’s office, then later in the larger County Courtroom that is used today.

Before deciding on the annex, the county discussed possible use of other properties that were available around the city and even looked at a site on Loop 7 North.

The bank building became vacant when Prosperity exited the property at the end of April 2011. Then, County Judge Richard Sanders, the County Commissioners, the IT Department and the Maintenance Office went to work getting the spacious structure ready for the move.

With space open in the courthouse, the county began moving out of the decaying annex building on North Palestine Street that held the tax office and the Texas Agri-Life Extension Office.

Not only did the move save the county money compared to other options, it also kept the county government presence downtown. Since then, downtown Athens has become a more vibrant area, with new businesses and the Texan Theater to draw people to the Central Business District.

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