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New facelift for courthouse?

News editor

County commissioners looked at two options Monday for building a multi-story addition onto the courthouse, and voiced approval for exploring how they’ll get $7 million to move ahead.

“People are going to say, ‘Look at what you’re spending,’” commissioner Randy Dallke said. “I’m here to say that an expenditure like this will pay back, both utility-wise and what we’ve done.”

Andy Pitts of Treanor Architects opened the discussion with an assessment of the electric, mechanical, and plumbing shortcomings of the courthouse, which he estimated would cost about $1 million to fix.

“I didn’t bring my catcher’s glove today and he just threw us a bunch of fast balls,” Dallke said.

The options for additions boiled down to one major difference, Pitts said.

“One is keeping the courts in; two is moving the courts out,” he said.

One option would consolidate district court services on the third floor of the courthouse, where the courtroom is now.

Commissioners and offices for clerk, appraiser, treasurer, and register of deeds would be among those getting space in a three-story addition attached to the south side of the courthouse.

Other departmental offices would fill reconfigured space on the first two floors of the courthouse.

A two-story option for the addition would house district court services on the second floor, with clerk and treasurer offices on the first. Commissioners would take over the old courtroom.

People would avoid the old courthouse stairs by using a ground-level entry on the west side of a new addition. The new configuration would allow for increased security as well, Pitts said.

“How nice it would be to have a ground entrance,” Dallke said, noting he was aware of three people who fell on the courthouse steps in recent months.

Commission chairman Dan Holub said consolidating court services would be beneficial.

“Ideally the entire court staff should be able to interact with each other without going into a public area,” he said.

The three-story addition, along with renovations to the courthouse, would cost $7.39 million, Pitts estimated. The two-story option would cost $7 million.

“We’re within reason,” Dallke said. “It’s expensive, but it’s close to within reason of what we could ask our public for.”

Pitts said the renovation estimates didn’t include replacing old windows in the courthouse.

A longstanding need to redo tuckpointing for the courthouse stonework, estimated to cost $600,000, was not discussed.

Holub asked what savings there might be if the health department, which vacated the Bowron building on Main St. for new quarters at St. Luke Hospital, remained where it is; Pitts said about $340,000.

“I would like to have our third commissioner here, but I guess my next thing is I’d like to talk finances,” Dallke said, referring to Lori Lalouette, who was not present.

Although the state legislature just imposed a sales tax increase, Holub said that should be an option for the county, noting how well it worked to finance the county jail,

“We’ve settled the issues of sales tax,” he said. “It was going to destroy business in this county, and it didn’t happen. Those are moot arguments.”

Dallke said financing would take further study, but he was satisfied the building options presented addressed his concerns.

“I like this; the facts are in front of us,” Dallke said. “And I’m not going to move the courthouse out of Marion.”

Last modified June 25, 2015

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