Cramped courthouse has Garfield County looking for space for new building | PostIndependent.com

Cramped courthouse has Garfield County looking for space for new building

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The increasingly cramped quarters at the Garfield County Courthouse may force the county to build an entire new building somewhere in Glenwood Springs to house several key departments, including the assessor, the treasurer and the clerk and recorder, as well as the Board of County Commissioners itself.

And this new structure, which one official said could cost as much as $12 million, may be built somewhere other than the traditional city/county “campus” along Eighth Street between Colorado and Pitkin avenues.

The commissioners learned on Monday that a counter-offer had been made concerning the county’s opening bid for an existing building at an undisclosed location, but believed to be along Wulfsohn Road near the West Glenwood I-70 interchange.

The commissioners, after talking things over with attorney Don DeFord behind closed doors, decided to stick with the original offered amount, which also was not disclosed.

According to county administrator Ed Green, the county has been talking about the need for more space for the past couple of years, ever since the state Legislature authorized additional judges in judicial districts around the state.

As a consequence of the expansion of the Ninth Judicial District, he said, the county has had to move some personnel and materials over to the relatively new administration building, located across Eighth Street from the historic courthouse building. And some of those who had been working in the administration building were shifted to other county offices in Rifle.

At the same time, Green said, “There’s sort of a disagreement … as to what the nature of the security arrangements should be.” He pointed to the X-ray machine and deputies stationed at the eastern door of the courthouse, which are there for courtroom security needs, but through which all members of the public, as well as courthouse employees, must pass to get into the building.

“It’s an aggravation,” declared County Assessor John Gorman, who resents the necessity.

But County Treasurer Georgia Chamberlain added, “Some of our clerks do feel a certain amount of security at having it there.”

The options facing the county include moving the courts facilities to a new “justice center” somewhere in Glenwood Springs, and leaving the old courthouse to the other departments; build a new administration building on vacant land somewhere in Glenwood Springs; or buy a building that can be finished or remodeled to suit the county’s administrative needs.

According to Commissioner Tresi Houpt, it would be “more cost effective” to build or buy new facilities for the administrative departments than it would to build a new justice center, which would necessarily mean building a modern facility with all the high-tech security gadgets that are standard in the field today.

Plus, she said, the courthouse is adjacent to the county jail, for greater efficiency and security in shifting inmates from their cells to the courts.

Although county officials declined to say exactly which properties are under consideration, Green confirmed that an appraisal ordered this week by the commissioners, to determine the value of county-owned land beneath the Valley View Hospital campus of facilities, could ultimately be involved in the issue.

For one thing, he confirmed, the hospital recently purchased the building just east of the county’s administrative building, at the corner of Eighth and Colorado.

Asked if there might be talk of a swap of the neighboring building for the land beneath the hospital, he said, “I think that’s something the hospital may broach with us.”

Green said the county is hoping to select a site within six to eight months, whether an existing building or a vacant lot.

Construction of a new building in downtown Glenwood, he said, could take up to four years or so, at an estimated cost of up to $12 million. He said the commissioners will come up with more exact cost estimates during deliberations for the 2010 budget.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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