Justice center moves forward

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— Now that the county has settled on a site for its proposed justice center, the real work can begin.

Architects from Denver-based HLM Design are assigned the task of providing more detailed plans of what the building could look like. The architects are expected to have plans prepared by July.

The 40,000 square-foot facility will stand south of the jail along Shield Drive in an undeveloped lot within the Curve Development Subdivision.

Architects Russell Sedmack and Ted Halsey will pose design options for a building with three courtrooms and space for probation staff, court administration, jury deliberation, judges' chambers and the District Attorney's Office. The architects will present the plans next month to a volunteer committee of county officials and residents.

The committee asked the architects to design the building with a fourth courtroom in mind.

Office space would occupy the space intended for a fourth courtroom until the need arose. Many committee members agreed that constructing a fourth courtroom would alienate voters who voiced their opposition last fall to building for needs too far into the future.

The decision to build south of the Routt County Jail came after months of negotiations. County officials were considering building west of the jail on a piece of land commonly referred to as the Klein property.

"Both sites had issues," County Commissioner Doug Monger said.

Outlot A in the Curve Development Subdivision eventually won out because county officials felt they could work out the property's drawbacks.

The narrower, longer shape of the Klein property posed some building challenges, as well as problems with access to U.S. Highway 40 and escorting prisoners to and from the jail.

Outlot A's rectangular shape better suits a square facility, but the architects must deal with wetlands and high gradients in their design.

The parcel, which slopes downward from U.S. Highway 40 toward the Yampa River, requires large amounts of rock infill to even out the steep incline.

The owner agreed to pay for 14,000 cubic feet of infill; the county must foot the bill for another 15,000 cubic feet.

The property's asking price was $675,000, but the county will pay $550,000. The costs of infill, however, will up that price by another $200,000 to $300,000.

Wetlands cover 2.4 acres of the 5-acre parcel. The county is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine if it can alleviate impacts to the wetlands or make up for lost wetlands by creating new riparian areas near Yampa Valley Regional Airport, County Manager Tom Sullivan said.

"We have a lot of work to do," Sullivan said.

The original court facility project, which cost $1.5 million, would have sat on a 0.64-acre plot in downtown Steamboat Springs. The county intends to keep the four lots along Oak Street between Fifth Street and Butcherknife Creek and between Oak Street and the alley for future expansion of downtown county offices.

County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said the decision to move west was wise.

"We don't have the same planning and property constraints," she said.

County offices would have no room to grow if the justice center occupied the space across the street from the Routt County Courthouse. The county is looking at hiring someone to conduct an assessment of its future space needs, she said.

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