Courthouse plans preliminary

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Routt County officials are considering how to remodel the historic Routt County Courthouse and associated buildings, but no firm plans will be made until the county can move forward on building a new justice center.

With recent news from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that a wetland permit to build the justice center next to the jail likely will be denied, plans for remodeling and updating the current buildings will remain on hold.

Plans for the current buildings are very preliminary, said Tim Winter, Routt County purchasing and property manager.

In recent discussions, county Finance Director Dan Strnad suggested budgeting about $2.5 million during the next few years to help remodel the historic building and redistribute county offices. That estimate is a ballpark figure, Strnad said, and it could change easily.

County officials had hoped to begin building a new justice center this spring at a site just west of downtown Steamboat Springs, but the likely Army Corps denial would prevent that.

When a new justice center is built, space in the historic building and annex could open up for other county offices, Winter said.

At that time, the county hopes to make needed repairs to the historic building's interior and exterior, replacing the entire "lid" of the building -- the roof, upper ceiling and associated structure, installing new bathrooms and remodeling the floor plan. Changes also could be made to parts of the courthouse annex.

Care would be taken to keep the historic look and style of the building, Winter said.

County offices then would be shifted to take advantage of the renovated space. Preliminary plans include that county commissioner offices would move into the upper level of the courthouse, along with the county attorney office, and space for a large hearing room would be created.

The human services could be moved into the old Visiting Nurse Association building. Offices currently in that building and offices housed in rented, off-site properties could be moved into the annex building.

If county commissioners reconsider building a new facility at the current site, those plans would have to change, Winter said.

If construction on the justice center could start in the spring, Winter said the county might begin looking for an architect to design the remodel in 2005.

However, if the justice center project is further delayed, the remodel project also will be delayed.

"It's the (justice center) timeline that really is driving all of the other timelines," Winter said.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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