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Historical commission prepares for busy 2020

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The Bandera County Historical Commission worked on updating its bylaws and revamping board operations last year but should get going on more concrete projects this year, like pursuit of an historic landmark designation for the Bandera water tower and an inventory of all the county’s historic sites and buildings, the commission’s chairperson said earlier this week.

Chairperson Rebecca Norton reflected on the commission’s progress after making an annual report on commission activities and its projects planned this year to Bandera County commissioners on Thursday, Jan. 23.

She considered 2019 a year of transition after the board’s leadership changed hands and new board members were added. The new board is enthusiastic about its opportunities and has learned how to work well together, Norton said, so she believes 2020 will see more historic projects get started.

“I definitely feel like we’ll have a good year,” she said.

The commission’s bylaws revisions need to be completed and an inventory of the county’s cemeteries could be updated this year, but Norton also outlined several new projects for county commissioners that she believes could get started as well.

That includes going to Bandera’s City Council for a plan to attain a Texas Historic Landmark designation for Bandera’s water tower.

Bandera’s Planning & Zoning Commission has initiated planning on an historic walking trail in downtown Bandera, and Norton believes the historical commission can be part of that project to make sure the trail contains the proper elements and that information about historic sites are accurate.

Development of a preservation plan for the Spettel Riverside House, a two-story home built in 1881 on the Medina River that is identified as a Texas Historical Landmark but has fallen into disrepair in recent decades, also is on the commission’s projects list as is completion of a comprehensive survey of all the county’s historic buildings and archeological sites.

That is something that remains unfinished even though it has been required by the Texas Historical Commission.

County Judge Richard Evans said he was pleased to see that the commission was nearing the completion of its bylaws update and generally believed the organization has done a “fine job” in the past year.

He also told county commissioners last week that he is eager to see the master plan that the firm Architexas is completing on the county’s historic jail and courthouse complex and on the current courthouse that the county operates out of so the county can decide what if any improvements to move forward with this year.

Evans expects to see something from the engineering firm by the end of February.

Once construction of the centralized Emergency Medical Service headquarters is completed on Highway 16 near Polly Peak Road later this year, the judge hopes to see if funds are available to get started on some site stabilization activities needed for the historic jail and courthouse renovation.

That long-anticipated project is expected to provide space for the county’s Convention & Visitors Bureau, which currently operates in leased space. Commissioners reduced Hotel Occupancy Tax allocations to the visitors bureau in 2016 so funds could be set aside to upgrade the Nineteenth Century jail and courthouse complex.