County buoyed by study

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— In five years, Routt County's offices will have grown to almost fill the space available in its downtown campus -- assuming court facilities have been moved off site. If the courts moved to a new justice center downtown, the county would come up a few thousand square feet short in five years.

That is one of the conclusions in a new space-needs analysis commissioned by Routt County.

The study, which was completed by architect Ron Szerlong, bolsters the county commissioners' claim that moving the courts to the west of downtown site provides sufficient space for core county offices to expand in the near future, Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said.

"Again it quantified what I knew, (my) gut feeling," Monger said. He also said the county's priority is to keep county offices that are used by the public in one, downtown location

"That was another stroke of the brush of that bigger picture of why we decided to move the justice center out (west)," Monger said.

In the study, Szerlong mapped out buildings in the county's downtown campus, which include the courthouse, courthouse annex and the Visiting Nurse Association's old building. Together, those provide about 31,000 square feet of space, according to the final report.

Then Szerlong talked with leaders of county departments, such as accounting, planning, environmental health and human services, and determined how much space each department takes up now and how much each expects to need in the years ahead.

Now, those core county departments -- excluding the courts, district attorney and related offices -- use about 23,000 square feet, according to the report. By 2009, those core departments are expected to take up 29,200 square feet.

If a new justice center is built downtown, the old VNA building would be cleared, taking away 4,500 square feet and leaving the county a few thousand square feet short on space.

For Monger, a key concern with that is whether there would be any room for further expansion in 10 years.

The main conclusion of this first report is that "an opportunity" for the county would be created when the courts and related offices move out of the downtown campus and into the new justice center. County offices will be able to move back into the central downtown buildings.

Next, Szerlong will complete a space allocation plan for 2009, which highlights where county offices could move after the courts and related offices are relocated.

Szerlong called that part of the study a "big jigsaw puzzle," in which different departments are arranged and rearranged to learn what is optimum.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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