Douglas County tries courtroom remodel options
Douglas County commissioners recently met with court administration to discuss options for a $2.2 million pending court remodel project set to resume this fall.
Presently, a shelled out space in the Douglas County Courthouse awaits finishing. Hindering progress is the approach to who, what, when and where. The why has already been determined; court administration needs more space.
Suggestions included temporary court space in the lower level of the jail, where security would not be a concern, or across the street at the Services Center; in which case, documents and prisoners would need to be transported. Another option is night crew construction to dull the impact on everyday proceedings. However, most contractors work during the day.
Commissioner Jerry Johnson inquired if an inmate's first appearance can be held at the jail since a facility exists for that purpose. Judge Ann Carrott said that could be an option, or a video appearance. However, a first appearance would only take up approximately a half-hour of a judge's court day. As it is now, the county typically runs two courtrooms.
"We're going to need to have two courtroom facilities," Carrott said. She has tried cases in rooms the size of the commissioners' room previously, but that would not work if a case went to jury trial.
Larry Filippi with Contegrity Group said that phasing, working section-by-section, is a definite possibility. Commissioner Dan Olson added that the more frequent a company has to visit the site, the more costly the project becomes.
Carrott noted that whether it's working around the construction or a temporary relocation, the courts must remain handicap accessible. Court Administrator Rhonda Bot said if a temporary location is going to be used, advanced notice must be given as court appearances are already scheduled into July.
Commissioner Jim Stratton favors a more structured plan versus an all at once "dynamite" approach.
"Eliminate the confusion and extra cost that might come about due to that kind of mentality," Stratton said. "Let's do this by the steps."
Seventh District Court Administrator Tim Ostby said it is the county's responsibility to determine if temporary relocation or working around construction is best for each court district-wide. Ostby said that typically the process involves hiring and consulting with an architectural firm to determine the county's needs.
An advisory construction committee has been formed including Commissioners Olson and Bev Bales and representation from the county information technology, auditor/treasurer, sheriff, court administration and building maintenance departments.
Commissioners voted in favor of moving forward with a request for proposals (RFP) that will come back to the board for approval. Once approved, the RFP will be sent out to market for bids.
Crystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.