Ideas for justice center unveiled

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Routt County commissioners got the first glimpse of what the county's new justice center could look like Tuesday.

Two architects from HLM Design of Denver brought preliminary sketches of several designs to a luncheon meeting with commissioners.

"Keep in mind that we haven't designed this building yet," said Russell Sedmak, vice president of HLM Design. The drawings that Sedmak showed commissioners were a way to "begin to test the numbers," he said.

For a three-courtroom building, total square-footage needs are about 35,200 square feet. A four-courtroom building requires about 39,000 square feet, said Ted Halsey, a principal architect with HLM Design.

Those numbers match the 40,000-square-foot number that county commissioners and the public previously had considered. But the architects said once the floor plans are physically laid out, the size increases: the 39,000-square-foot proposal becomes closer to 44,000 square feet.

Sedmak cautioned that these estimates could easily change.

"It's just too early for us to commit to square footage yet," he said.

The architects presented two plans, both of which could be modified.

The proposal the commissioners showed the most interest in is a three-story version. A small garden level would house probation offices and storage. The first story would have one county courtroom, the clerk's offices, space for a future courtroom, a public lobby and screening area, and smaller offices. The second story would house two district courtrooms and space for the district attorney offices.

The second proposed plan was a one-story building with a garden level that would house two district courtrooms and possibly district attorney offices. The plan would be the most space-efficient, Halsey said, and would keep the building in the 38,000-square-foot range. But the community could lose out on some easy options for space, Sedmak said.

"Although we can begin to get a little bit closer to that 39,000 number that we see in the (proposal), there are some difficulties," he said, most notably the lack of space for any grounds maintenance storage and several other needs.

"What we're trying to do is not make this a bigger building than it needs to be," Sedmak said. "But we're also trying to protect you from building something that's short-sighted."

Commissioners made note of issues -- such as the need for a court-employee elevator and for storage space -- to bring up at a public meeting Aug. 20, when steering committee volunteers and other members of the public will hear more refined plans.

The architects also presented suggestions for how the building could sit on the property at the west end of town, located off Shield Drive, next to the Routt County Jail. In finding a good location, Sedmak said they tried to minimize impacts to the wetlands on the property.

Commissioners were directed Dec. 23, 2002, to build a new justice facility by a court order from now-retired 14th District Judge Richard Doucette. The cost of building the center has been estimated at about $12 million.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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