The Routt County Board of Commissioners recently has suggested using the old downtown courthouse for county offices and constructing a new (less prestigious) building to house courtrooms in the light industrial area at the west end of town.
I submit the commissioners have it backward. It is the courtrooms that should stay in the historic downtown building, not county offices as the commissioners propose. In fact, county offices in the old courthouse should be redesigned into additional courtrooms. The county can then build a smaller, less expensive facility at the west end site to house offices that are displaced.
Courtrooms represent something county offices do not. The state and local courts are very real representations of our country's third branch of government. They represent our faith in our judicial system.
There is a certain amount of decorum that accompanies that faith. It is no accident that judges sit above the rest of the courtroom, not because of who they are, but what they represent. We address them as "your honor" and the lawyers appearing before them can speak to each other only through the judge. They cannot approach the bench unless given permission to do so.
This tradition and formality has historical significance that clearly was recognized by our forefathers in 1923 when they built the impressive downtown courthouse and its courtrooms. We, as citizens of Routt County, should do no less in 2004.
It is, as they say, a 100-year decision, and our courts, how they look, where they are located and how they are conducted, should remain the same proud symbol of belief in our democratic system that our predecessors visualized before us.
Dan R. DeLacy