Justice center halfway design point reached

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Routt County commissioners approved justice center designs at the halfway point of their development, giving the project the OK to move ahead.

The roughly 50,000-square-foot facility will be built of blond brick with red and metal highlights and will feature large windows that give an open and stately feel.

Tuesday's approval of the 50 percent design development from architects HLM Design of Denver give commissioners the chance to make sure that no "gross errors" have been made, said Routt County Building Maintenance Director Tim Winter.

It also gives an updated cost estimate of about $15.3 million including contingency costs, which is about $100,000 less than the estimate a few months ago.

Winter said the county and architects are looking for every opportunity to cut costs while still building a justice center that will endure through the years.

"If we add something, we've got to find something else to remove, that's my rule," Winter said.

The entrance to the building, which is "pretty much all glass except metal banding," Winter said, is open for two stories and has a glass-cap roof. The entrance is the feature that architects wanted to use to communicate the respect they say any court building deserves.

Hallways throughout the building will be made of wood with a strong sealed surface or a terrazzo material, while courtrooms and office space should have carpet, Winter said.

The courtrooms will have a corner bench design, in which the judge's box is in a corner, allowing the judge to see a witness and jury members at the same time. Neither of the two district courtrooms will be designed for a particular judge, but one has space for a larger audience and the other has space for a larger counsel, so the courtroom can be chosen depending on the case.

Although the county is building the space and all permanent fixtures for the building, which it has a court order to complete by Sept. 1, 2006, furniture and other items will be provided by the state judicial system.

Routt County commissioners asked whether the state knew it had to provide a good deal of furniture, and Winter said that the county has communicated its needs to the state.

In the worst-case scenario, the justice center would be furnished with the benches, desks and chairs used at the current courthouse.

"It's out of our control," Winter said.

Winter reiterated to the county commissioners that the plan is getting into details of the building, and that architects have considered all regulations that will be required for the justice center.

"There's still the opportunity to change things, (the architects) just want to know if everything's ... headed in the right direction so they can continue down this road," Winter said.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said the design seemed economical, efficient and safe and would meet the needs of the public.

"It demands the respect that the justice center ... should work under," Monger said. "It's a building that we can be proud of as we move forward."

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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