The Hebert Building is located off the square in Carthage. Excellent Teen Choice wants to put a cultural museum in the empty building.

Excellent TEEN Choice has asked the Panola County Commissioners’ Court to waive the back taxes on the old Hebert building off the Carthage Square, which the nonprofit is seeking to buy to turn into a cultural museum.

Director Sharon Roberson-Jones said Tuesday afternoon that she’s seen in talking to high school students that a lot of them don’t know about significant Panola County figures, such as Marjorie Neal. She wants to change that.

“A few months ago I was so hyped wanting to build a cultural center museum,” Roberson-Jones said. “My attempt was to use the old Western Auto building site, highlighting the success of people in Panola County and throughout Texas, but now I’m not sure. In talking with the others, many challenges were presented as to why not do this or why not do that, even to the point of saying that Panola County is not ready for this type of museum.

“Another challenge is that the building has approximately $15,000 in back taxes alone. If the owner sold the building, he said we would have to pay the back taxes as well unless the city, county and schools waived the fees. We are a small nonprofit organization with big dreams, but very little resources.”

Commissioners liked the idea of a cultural museum, but they all agreed that the man selling the building ought to be the one paying the back taxes and that he shouldn’t be trying to push it onto them.

“Anything that’s going to bring us more about Panola County and Carthage, we’re for that,” Commissioner Ronnie LaGrone said. “There’s nothing against it. We think the man is taking advantage of y’all on wanting y’all to pay the taxes. He’s wanting y’all to come to us and make us think that we’re sorry, we’re no good, we don’t want to take care of the people. That ain’t it. We’re just not going to let him take advantage of y’all on this deal, because he’s wanting to y’all to get up talk into him walking out here with free money that you’re giving him above the taxes.”

In addition, LaGrone said he didn’t think the county could afford to waive those back taxes.

“If we do this, every time anybody in this county comes up and says they want something for something, we’re going to have to go,” he said. “You look at the tax run, we’ve been dealing with our attorneys and show how much money doesn’t come in anymore, how many suits we got going now to try to make ends meet. Everybody in this room knows what oil and gas has done. This county lives and dies on oil and gas, and we’re not too far above ground there. We’ve cut, we’ve cut and we’ve cut.

“Anytime you’re doing anything to help people, bring up subjects, I think it’s wonderful, but like you said it takes money to do, and this poor county ... I don’t think we can afford it, because I think that he’s pushing this toward y’all trying to get him out from under.”