County sticking to its decision

Monger: 'There is no reconsidering' on justice center site

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— Routt County commissioners plan to sign a resolution today committing to the construction of a new justice center west of Steamboat Springs.

The resolution comes amid renewed efforts to move the building site downtown.

The resolution outlines how the commissioners decided on the location of the new justice center. It also reiterates that the existing, historic downtown courthouse will continue to be used by residents and so "will continue to embolden the character and vibrancy of the community in the Old Town area of Steamboat Springs."

The intent of the resolution, Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said, was to solidify in residents' minds the safe future of the historic courthouse.

Friends of the Justice Center Inc., a nonprofit organization, has been formed to lobby for building the justice center downtown. Members of the group are expected to ask the Steamboat Springs City Council for a letter supporting their stance.

But Monger said commissioners have no plans to reconsider the site.

"There is no reconsidering," Monger said. "There's nothing new to reconsider."

In 2002, county residents voted down a tax increase to build a $17 million justice center downtown. Two months later on his last day in office, Judge Richard Doucette issued an order instructing the county to build a new facility by Sept. 1, 2006. After several public meetings last year, the county voted to use certificates of participation, which do not require voter approval, to build a new justice center west of town by the Routt County Jail.

Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said opponents of the western location are overlooking the fact that the existing courthouse will remain downtown.

"I think there still is out there a misconception on at least part of the public that when we say we're moving the courthouse to the west, we're moving everything to the west," Stahoviak said

The Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan says government buildings should stay downtown to act as "anchors" within the community, but Stahoviak said the building would not be moved back downtown "because of one sentence in the Steamboat Springs Area Plan."

If the justice center had been built downtown, it would have been "too big" to fit in with the rest of the neighborhood and other area plan building guidelines, Stahoviak said.

"Somewhere, sometime something has to leave downtown Steamboat Springs," Monger said.

Friends of the Justice Center is expected to ask the City Council to send a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers urging the Corps to ask the county to look again at the downtown site. The Corps is considering the county's application to fill wetlands at the site west of downtown.

If the City Council signs that letter, commissioners said they would take that as a sign that the city has prejudged their building application, which is scheduled for a hearing Thursday night, and would reconsider whether to take the plans through the city planning process.

The dispute, Monger said, is "driving a wedge" between the city and county.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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