County presents findings from courthouse feasibility study to the public
County contracted TreanorHL to complete the study at the old Kmart building, which is the same company the school district used for its facilities upgrade study
Roughly six months after Moffat County commissioners approved an $80,800 bid from TreanorHL to conduct a feasibility study for a new county courthouse, the county has a better idea of what the future project might cost.
According to a Tuesday morning presentation from Roy Tipton from the Office of Development Services, the 94,602-square-foot Kmart building would cost roughly $25.28 million to fully renovate into a new county courthouse. If the county continued to renovate, upgrade and add onto the current courthouse, the price tag would sit around $45.51 million. Commissioners have speculated that if Chief Judge Michael O’Hara ordered the county to build a new courthouse from the ground up down the line, that price could be an additional $10 million to $15 million more.
According to the study, county departments would need roughly 59,625 square feet, while the 14th Judicial District would need 42,369 square feet in a remodel or new building.
The study of the current courthouse and a possible new location at the old Kmart building was needed due to the current courthouse failing to comply with building codes and the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Lennie Gillam, the county’s facilities director.
Tipton added that significant security issues abound with the current courthouse, which has created unsafe situations for law enforcement officers and potential jurors.
Added pressure from the 14th Judicial District to correct these issues led to the need for the study, which was funded by an $80,000 grant from the Underfunded Courthouse Facility Fund, $20,000 from the Department of Local Affairs and $20,000 from the county.
Due to the pressure from the state judicial branch, Moffat County has to look into ways to improve the courthouse, or move into a new and improved building.
“When I say State Judicial is pushing us on this, they are; they’re full upstairs,” Tipton said during his presentation. “There are a number of deficiencies in this building that have been known for a long time. The real serious, life-threatening deficiencies are in safety.”
Safety is the main area of concern when it comes to the current courthouse. In-custody transportation is the No. 1 concern at the courthouse, which was built in 1917 and remodeled in 1962, according to Tipton.
“The deputies have to bring inmates up a narrow set of stairs, all the way from the bottom to the top floor,” Tipton said. “It’s unsecured up there, and there’s no waiting area or holding for the inmates; it’s just not safe.”
The county’s current budget is roughly $20 million for the project, according to Tipton. The courthouse at the Kmart building potentially could be financed through old bonds that were used to fund the Public Safety Center. According to a previous Craig Press report, Tipton had originally floated the idea to commissioners in October 2019.
Those bonds Tipton references will be retired in 2023 and 2025, which would free up revenue that could be applied to improvements at the courthouse or for use at the Kmart building.
“These revenues were approved by the voters for capital projects, so another ballot question would not have to take place,” Tipton said.
According to Tipton’s research regarding construction costs, FCI out of Grand Junction is charging $252 per square foot, while the average cost of construction per square foot in Denver is roughly $200. Therefore the county is hoping for somewhere in the middle when it comes to negotiating construction costs should they pursue the Kmart building.
County commissioners will hold a discussion Tuesday, Sept. 15, at the next county commissioners’ meeting regarding the study’s findings and what the county should do next in terms of the recommendations from TreanorHL.
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