In just a few hours, they’re going to unlock the front door at a Texas Panhandle county complex.
It will mark the beginning of a new era.
Randall County’s new courthouse annex will open for business as the county vacates its former annex. The new site will be on Western Street and Paramount Boulevard. It will be about six times larger in terms of floor space than the other place. It will be essentially a “full-service county government operation.”
As a resident of Randall County, I am delighted that County Judge Ernie Houdashell’s hard work and hard-nosed negotiating skills have borne fruit.
The new annex will sit on a parcel that used to be home for an insurance firm. The firm went bankrupt and moved out. Houdashell set about negotiating with the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation to buy the building.
AEDC finally sold the site to the county for $2.5 million. That was nearly two years ago. The county then tore the old building apart and has turned it into a state-of-the-art government complex.
Whereas the old annex, at Georgia Street and the Canyon E-Way, comprised the tax office, a justice of the peace court and a small sheriff’s office presence, the new place is much more complete.
It will contain all of the above. It also will have a county clerk operation, a district clerk office, a county court-at-law, a second justice of the peace courtroom; the district attorney will maintain a presence there as well.
It’s full service, all right.
Randall County’s population is around 125,000 residents; it has overtaken neighboring Potter County in size.
Although the Randall County seat is in Canyon, about 80 percent of the county population resides in Amarillo, providing about 80 percent of the county’s total revenue in taxes and fees. It makes perfect sense for the annex to provide more county government services for the vast majority of the county’s taxpaying residents. It saves them drive time to Canyon and provides better service closer to home.
What happens to the old annex building? It will be taken over by the Texas Panhandle War Memorial board, which operates the memorial next to the Georgia Street complex. Houdashell told me the War Memorial board plans to use the annex as a chapel, while it continues to raise money to erect its long-planned education center next to the garden and the monuments that honor Panhandle residents who’ve fallen in battle in defense of our country.
I guess all that’s left to say is: Well done, Ern.