The new Moffat County Courthouse is nearly complete
After nearly 15 months of construction, the Moffat County Courthouse is nearing completion, and county staff are preparing to move into the building in April.
Moffat County purchased the former Kmart building in 2020 for $2.25 million in an effort to remedy a number of safety and infrastructure issues at the county’s original courthouse at 221 W. Victory Way.
Several feasibility studies were completed showing the original courthouse would need more than $43 million in renovation work to meet the safety and accessibility requirements to house county services and county and district courts.
Once the $24 million renovation project is complete, the building should be able to house all county services, along with the district and county courts, under one roof. The total project cost includes resealing the parking lot and making some landscaping upgrades to the property.
Roy Tipton, director of Development Services for Moffat County, said the project has kept pretty well on its timeline considering the supply chain issues that have delayed many construction projects.
From April 10-15, county offices will be closed to the public so that staff can move into the new location. During that time, the county-hosted services will need to shut down, so there will be no email or phone service for most county offices.
Also, county commissioners will host their regular meeting on April 11 from the basement of the current courthouse with remote access for the public. Services that require 24/7 coverage, such as emergency services or the Department of Human Services, will have phone calls forwarded to a staff member’s cell phone.
All county offices are expected to reopen to the public on April 17 at the new courthouse. Judicial services will be closed from April 14-18 to complete their part of the move. Court services will reopen in the new courthouse building on April 19.
County officials said that in the new courthouse, the overall experience for residents should improve with a brighter space and a building that is easier to navigate. The new space will also be more efficient and economic for county staff, in addition to resolving many of the apparent issues with the old courthouse.
The flow of the new courthouse
Moffat County commissioners decided to pursue the renovation project knowing that 14th Judicial District Judge Michael A. O’Hara had the authority to issue an order for a new courthouse to be built, which was the case in Routt County.
Inside Moffat County’s old courthouse, the defense and prosecution both share a small hallway outside the courtroom prior to trials with limited privacy and security. Also, defendants in police custody have to walk past the jury deliberation room and through the judge’s chambers when they are escorted into the courtroom.
Additionally, the jury box is not currently in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, so a juror using a wheelchair would have to sit outside the jury box behind the prosecutor. These are just a few of the issues that should be resolved when Moffat County moves into the new courthouse in early April.
According to Tipton, one of the distinct features of the new courthouse is the single point of entry, where access to the courthouse will be divided into two pathways. Anyone accessing the courts or state services such as the Department of Human Services or probation will be screened by security.
However, people can also access the county offices on the public side of the building without having to go through security. The county treasurer, assessor, clerk and recorder, and elections are all easy to access in the front of the building.
Tipton said there are 13 conference and meeting spaces inside the new building that will be available for the public to schedule and utilize. There are also several research stations for people looking to access county records.
Veteran’s services, the Colorado State University Extension Office, Moffat County Public Health, the Department of Human Services and the employee health clinic will all be moving into the building in order to create a one-stop shop for public services.
With the move, the county will either end its leases or sell the properties that are currently occupied by these offices, which should help the county’s general fund.
The CSU Extension Office and the Moffat County Public Health will have exterior entrances for public access without having access to the rest of the building. For the CSU Extension, this will help with after-hours events and community programs.
On the courts’ side of the building, the flow of traffic has been designed so that jurors and defendants won’t cross paths outside the courtroom. All three courtrooms for the district, county and family court are complete with ADA access.
The secured entrance will have a second entry point for jurors on busy court days, which occur about twice per year and can have as many as 130 jurors coming in at the same time, Tipton said. The new courthouse will be the only courthouse in the district to have a jury assembly room where jurors can watch monitors to see their numbers being called.
Probation, juvenile services and caseworkers for the Department of Human Services currently have limited space to conduct interviews with clients. The new building will include separate interview rooms for caseworkers and probation officers, which should help promote safety and protect confidential information.
All about technology
With most of the construction completed, the final push to finish the new courthouse rests in the hands of the county’s information technology department and IT consultants who have been hired to execute the transition.
The IT department, which operates out of a closet in the original courthouse building, will have more technology and capacity at the new site. There are fiber optic cables running to the building, and the infrastructure is housed in a main server room with three smaller server rooms throughout the building.
“This building is all about technology,” Tipton said.
Each conference room is equipped with video conference systems, and there will be monitors throughout the building where public meetings and court dockets will be posted.
All of the lights and thermostats will be automated, which will be more efficient and ultimately save money, Tipton said.
The elections office is equipped with technology sufficient to record all activity for counting and tabulating ballots during public elections, and Tipton said that the rest of the building will also have cameras that will be monitored for security purposes.
Tipton said the county plans to host an official dedication ceremony once the snow is thawed and the exterior improvements are made. In the meantime, community members are invited to take a look at the new courthouse once it is open to the public on April 17.
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