County grants court study

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— Routt County will commission a study on how to best use its historic courthouse for county offices once a new justice center is built west of town.

Commissioners are expected to commission Ron Szerlong Associates, the low bidder, to conduct the study. The study should be completed in June.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said he expects the space-needs study will be "telling."

"I think it will go to validate concerns the commissioners have had regarding the provision of county services and county offices in the downtown area," Monger said.

Continued growth in the county would mean a greater need for county services, meaning county offices will need room to expand, he said. Commissioners are concerned there isn't enough room for expansion downtown, Monger said.

Recent estimates show that once all county offices, some of which are now in rented buildings, are moved into the historic courthouse, there will be only about 500 square feet of available space for expansion, he said. Those numbers suggest that keeping the court offices downtown would not be practical, he said.

Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison said that when he was elected commissioner 10 years ago, the county had only one information technology employee. Now it has seven, which is representative of how much departments can grow, he said.

Friends of the Justice Center Inc. has challenged the county's decision to build the new, court-ordered justice center west of downtown Steamboat Springs, arguing the center should be kept in Old Town. The Steamboat Springs City Council also opposed the location and the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission voted against the project.

Ron Szerlong Associates bid $6,700 to conduct the space-needs study. Four bids were received, and some estimating the study's cost at about $40,000.

Ron Szerlong Associates did a space-needs study for the county in 1991, and is "much more familiar" with the county's needs, Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.

Part of the study will include computer documentation of the office spaces, which will allow county employees to evaluate space use and needs on a regular basis, Stahoviak said.

Once the study is complete, some county offices could start moving, commissioners said.

Commissioners are hopeful the Routt County Environmental Health and the County Coroner offices, now located at 427 Oak St., could be moved back to the county's properties to avoid paying about $40,000 in rent each year on the Oak Street building.

After the justice center is built, county offices will move around in several phases, Stahoviak said. One option if for the commissioners' offices to be on the third floor of the historic courthouse with the two courtrooms turned into one large meeting room.

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