Moffat County commissioners OK courthouse demolition, sale of three properties
Editor’s note: this article has been updated to include information about prior discussion between Moffat County Commissioners and 14th Judicial District Judge.
After years of working to update the courthouse and several public hearings, Moffat County commissioners have approved the demolition of the old building.
Roy Tipton, Moffat County’s director of Development Services, presented two resolutions to commissioners on Tuesday morning, Aug. 9, to approve the demolition of the old courthouse building at 211 W. Victory Way in Craig and the sale of three other county buildings, once the county has vacated the properties in 2023.
County commissioners approved both resolutions, which will authorize the courthouse demolition and the sale of the county extension office at 539 Barclay St., the department of human services building at 595 Breeze St. and the employee health and wellness clinic at 551 Tucker St.
The county will put out a request for proposals later this week as local officials look to hire a real estate agent to help facilitate the sale of the three properties. Proceeds from the sales will go back into the county’s general fund.
Once the project is complete, Tipton said the county expects to save money by consolidating county offices and selling the other buildings.
Once the old courthouse is taken down and the lot is cleaned up, the county plans to turn it over to the Craig Economic Development Advisory Committee to market for new development.
To recap about how this project started, Tipton explained that 14th Judicial District Chief Michael Judge O’Hara has been having conversations with County Commissioners for at least ten years about the condition of the old courthouse.
According to Tipton, the judge has the authority to order updates to municipal courthouses for safety, space and security issues.
Both Routt and Grand County were forced to build new courthouses as a result of an order issued by the previous 14th Judicial District Judge on his day of retirement.
The chief judge meets with County Commissioners annually to discuss needs. According to Tipton, Judge O’Hara had been bringing up courthouse upgrades in annual meetings for years and County officials knew the day would come that they would be forced to update.
The county also completed a feasibility study that found an addition would be needed to continue using the current courthouse. Because municipal offices would have to vacate the building during construction and the county would have to pay for temporary offices, the cost of a remodeling project was estimated at $45 million.
Then the opportunity arose for the county to purchase the former K-mart building in 2020, which after a renovation would allow six county offices to be consolidated into one location. Tipton reported Tuesday that the new courthouse construction is about 75% complete, and the county aims to relocate its offices in early 2023.
There have been some comments on social media from people who want to see the old courthouse preserved as a piece of Craig’s history, but according to county officials, there are tenfold reasons for letting go of the old building.
Tipton said that if the county were to keep the building, utilities are about $100,000 per year alone, and there’s a lot of daily maintenance that goes into the building just to keep it running.
“We’ve looked at this building — no matter what you do with it, there are too many things wrong with it,” Tipton said. “There are structural, mechanical, electrical issues. There is really no good way to repurpose it.”
In previous presentations before the city, Tipton said the sewer pipes in the courthouse are rotting, and there are issues with the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. Even if all those issues could be resolved, the county would still have to deal with federal accessibility requirements outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The county has conducted several public meetings on the courthouse demolition and held several meetings with Craig city officials about taking down the building and cleaning up the lot.
“I think it’s important that we held many public meetings and no one really came,” Moffat County Commissioner Tony Bohrer said. “Two people came to any of the public meetings, and they weren’t against it.”
Commissioner Donald Broom said that many of the people who were concerned about the courthouse demolition were given a tour of the building and that changed their minds.
According to Tipton, the old courthouse building is going through environmental testing to determine what will be needed for the demolition, including any necessary asbestos abatement and the cleanup of the site.
The decision to remove the old courthouse was not taken lightly by county officials, and there have been numerous workshops and discussions during combined city and county meetings to ensure both entities are on board with the project.
Economic Development Manager Shannon Scott said there was a progression of conversations that led to city and county officials to decide on turning the property at 211 Victory Way over to the city.
Tipton offered a presentation before the Economic Development Advisory Committee about the project, and after brainstorming, said that committee members felt the project aligned nicely with the committee’s purpose.
“We’re still working on what the process will look like,” Scott said. “One of the biggest goals of the EDAC is to develop a marketing strategy to attract developers to local properties.”
The feedback from advisory committee members and Craig City Council has been positive, and Scott said there are a variety of opportunities for what the main street property could become.
“Just the location right there on Victory Way and being pretty close to downtown, we could tie in some potential retail with housing in a mixed-use space,” Scott said. “There are a lot of opportunities. We’re not confined to one certain thing.”
The demolition of the building is scheduled for late summer 2023, but Scott said the committee will be strategizing over the next year to get ahead of the curve on ideas for this project.
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