Steamboat Springs When it comes to courthouses, Routt County's neighbor to the east is facing similar growing pains, but dealing with them differently.
Grand County has grown since its original courthouse was built, but its courtrooms have not. The space constraints and unsafe conditions that beleaguer the Routt County Courthouse exist in the Grand County Courthouse, retired 14th Judicial District Richard Doucette said.
"It's exactly the same kind of thing," Doucette said. "It's the same kind of circulation issues."
Doucette was a judge in the district for 22 years. Before his Dec. 31 retirement, he ordered both Grand and Routt counties to provide safe and adequate facilities for their courts. He set a Jan. 1, 2006, deadline for Routt County and a Jan. 1, 2007, deadline for Grand.
But the two counties have responded differently to Doucette's orders.
While Routt County officials are working on a plan to comply with the court order to build a new court facility, Grand County officials oppose Doucette's ruling.
The Grand County Board of Commissioners plans to appeal its court order to the Colorado Supreme Court. Grand County Commissioner Bob Anderson said the county will appeal because the residents have spoken on the issue.
Grand County voters said "no" to paying for an $8 million justice center in November 2001.
Likewise, Routt County voters rejected a proposal last November to subsidize a $17.2 million judicial facility.
Routt County officials are looking at putting another courthouse initiative on the November 2003 ballot, but they recognize another initiative might fail and the county will have to pick up the costs.
"We have to build a facility and pay for it, no matter what," County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said earlier.
The Grand County commissioners are consulting Grand County Attorney Jack DiCola to consider how they should pursue their appeal. They are concerned they might have to cut county services to finance a new court facility.
Routt County Attorney John Merrill said the appeals process could take six months to a year. Several counties in the state have appealed court-ordered judicial facility projects, he said.
In his order, Doucette cited a number of deficiencies with the space allotted to courts in both counties' buildings.
Routt County officials said they don't dispute the need for a new court facility, but they are concerned about building a new court facility with three courtrooms that meet current court standards by Jan. 1, 2006.
Doucette said he was willing to extend his deadline as long as Routt County makes progress on the project.
His orders call for semiannual reports on Routt and Grand counties' progress beginning July 1, 2003.
He gave Grand County an additional year to complete the project because its plans for a new court facility are not as far along as those in Routt County.
"It's going to be harder for them to deal with this," Doucette said.
When Grand County voters rejected a tax increase to pay for a new court facility, the county dropped the issue, he said.
"They just didn't do anymore after that loss, and the problem's not getting any better," Doucette said.
The condition of Grand County's courts is not as bad as Routt County's, he said, but the difference is a matter of degree.
Doucette said he wrestled with his decision to order Grand County to build a new court facility. His order will stand until it's reversed, he said.
"It was one of those things I needed to do," he said. "The courts are getting left behind."