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March 02, 2022 - 05:00

“This is something the county has been talking about forever”, stated Jack Moseley, Commissioner, Precinct 1, at the February 10, 2022, Commissioners Court meeting in reference to agenda item to “Discuss the next steps to be taken in the renovation of the 1881 Jail and Courthouse buildings”.

“Promises” to renovate the Bandera Historic Jail and First County Courthouse next to the Chevron Ice House on 12th Street have been made for over 10 years. Volunteer hours and labor and dollars were spent with no results but stopping the project. Some of the “promises” include the following:

2012: A proposal for use of the buildings was prepared with participation by the “Friends of the Old Jail” including the Bandera County Historical Commission, Frontier Times Museum, Western Trail Association with County Commissioner, Doug King, presiding. Mansfield Surveying provided an official survey of the .683 acres. A “Bandera County Building Use Study” was completed to include volunteer labor for immediate needs and obtaining construction estimates from Rudy Rodriguez.

2015: Committee meetings and volunteer research and recommendations continue. Friends of the Old Jail October meeting focused on uses for the buildings, parking and development of a master plan. George Sharman was elected Chairman and others in attendance included: Dave Burrell, Bill Pannebaker, Andy Wilkerson, Tommy Knotts, Rebecca Norton, Roy Dugosh, Johnny Boyle, Mason Hunt, Eleanora Goodley, Marcia Short and Judge Richard Evans.

2016: “HOT Funds, Capital credits seed renovations of historic complex”, stated the Bandera County Courier. The September edition quoted Judge Evans, “Long term, this will be an effective tool for tourism. I’ve wanted something done with this for years,” Evans said. “It’s time to do it or forget it”. On September 8th, Commissioners Court decided to retain 2/7ths of the Hotel Occupancy Tax to enable renovations of the Old Jail. The Court authorized a Request for Proposal for “procurement of professional services to establish a visitors center…”.

2017: Commissioners Court unanimously selects Architexas to provide analysis and report of requirements and recommendations to establish a visitor’s center. The Court established a committee to participate in planning the scope of the project. The Bandera County Historical Commission, Economic Development Council, Convention and Visitors Bureau, the City of Bandera, Frontier Times Museum and American Legion Post 157 were named as members. The Architexas provided a $1.4 million proposal to the Commissioners Court December 14: developed without seeking community feedback. Commissioners Court established a committee to review the proposal. NOTE: Bandera Bulletin article dated December 20, 2017). What was the return on the nearly $80,000 paid to Architexas?

2018, 2019, 2020: No further actions taken and the Friends of the Old Jail ceased to meet.

2021: Topic not an agenda item for the Commissioners Court

2022: Topic appears as a goal of incumbent Judge in political advertising. Judge Evans states at Meet the Candidates on January 28th that $600,000 has been identified for the Old Jail and Courthouse renovation. The FY 2021-2022 Budget does not identify funds for the project. “Discuss the next steps to be taken in the renovation of the 1881 Jail and Courthouse buildings.” appears on County Commissioners Court agenda on February 10, 2022.

Given the documented history of this “project” and “promises”, what does this latest episode mean? Successive Commissioners and the same Judge have made attempts, expended funds, and the result: a further deteriorated Old Jail complex, lost tourism revenue and additional years of “renting” a non-Western old house for the Convention and Visitors Center. It is absolutely imperative that County leadership follow through this time and provide the leadership to preserve this a “in Bandera only” historic complex now. Promises made…Promises Kept?

Mason Hunt

Western Trail Antiques & Marketplace

Bandera, Texas