’54 building gets a reprieve

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 19, 2002

County commissioners could not reach a consensus on the hotly debated 1954 courthouse annex Tuesday, and decided to wait for the result of a detailed space-use and cost study that will take a month.

Meanwhile, the board approved the schematic design of the new judicial center by its architects, BKV Group, which delineates the outlook and floor plan of the new facility, and authorized the firm to proceed to the next design phase.

The ’54 building issue was discussed in a tense atmosphere with input from the audience consisting of proponents and opponents of the demolition.

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But the debate hit a snag when commissioners and staff realized they were not sure about whether there was enough space in the new building to accommodate all the offices that would be displaced if the 1954 building were demolished.

Supporters of the plan to tear down the building say the move would make the courthouse more attractive by exposing the historic 1800s building now blocked by the ’54 addition. They also say the newer building is outdated, and estimates show it would cost more to fully renovate than it would to raze and replace.

Commissioner Dave Mullenbach attempted to amend an original motion tabled in the last meeting to remove the building entered by Commissioner Mark Behrends, adding a contingent clause that said the decision would be subject to feasibility research by BKV and construction management firm Adolfson & Peterson.

But Commissioner Glen Mathiason questioned whether the proposed resolution was meant to authorize the removal of the ’54 building or to delay the decision until the research is done.

Efforts to clarify the wording came to a deadlock and Behrends retracted the motion.

A new motion to postpone the decision until the July 23 board meeting, after the further research, was made by Commissioner Dan Springborg. The board approved the motion 4 to 1. Mullenbach cast the no vote.

The study will determine whether a 12,000 square-foot addition to the new judicial center can provide enough space for offices driven out from the ’54 building, which has 24,000 square feet in total, and the costs associated with the changes.

The board approved a schematic design of the new judicial center. But the plan is not based on the scenario that the ’54 building will be gone.

BKV Principal Architect Jack Boarman suggested that removing the ’54 building would require the county to move the treasurer’s office and public records department into a space facing the main entrance on the first floor of the new building, which requires redesigning the space for the sheriff’s office and city police.