Dear Commissioner Doug Monger:
I am very displeased with your disregard of the voters and the law with respect to the courthouse issue. The voters said no to a new courthouse, and the law says no, as well. Even so, you say yes.
As a former trial lawyer who has handled cases in facilities ranging from excellent to disgusting, I would be among the first to support a new courthouse if one were needed (and if it were done legally). But in this case, I don't see even an arguable need for a new facility.
First, we don't use half of the facility we already have. I suspect that you and others in the "out with the old, in with the new" crowd have not even thought about how much of the courthouse really is being used for judicial functions.
By my quick assessment, it appears that more than 50 percent of the courthouse is used for nonjudicial functions. Judicial functions basically are limited to the third floor and part of the second floor. If the courthouse were used only as a courthouse, there would be plenty of space. The vehicle registration office, personnel office, etc., don't need to be in the courthouse.
Furthermore, it appears that any alleged crowding issues (both inside and in terms of parking) are more the result of poor management than a true lack of adequate facilities. Basically, the third floor is crowded for part of the day, a few days each month. But during much of the typical working schedule, the third floor is closer to empty. If the county leaders would stop letting the tail wag the dog by focusing only on the peak loads, the courthouse could handle the load with a little bit of thoughtful management that spreads the peaks around.
Finally, you folks in the "out with the old, in with the new" crowd need to develop some respect for preservation. The most impressive courthouses I have visited have been the older ones, from the U.S. Supreme Court down. We cannot afford to build new courthouses with the kinds of materials and techniques that make these grand buildings so impressive and long-lived. There is an aura of solemnity and dignity in the places where history was made, which no amount of money can buy.
I've been in 10-year-old courthouses that looked great when they were built, but quickly became shabby. And I've seen too many grand old courthouses that served their communities well but were turned into office space for minions. That kind of contrast is a compelling statement of terrible perspective on the part of community leaders, and it bodes poorly for a community's self-image and future.
As I see it, your crowd just wanted an excuse to build a monument to your own political power. As a result, the county apparently has spent more than a million dollars on a facility that would disturb wetlands and violate the community's own master plan. If the county simply had put that money into renovations, however, we already would have a very nice updated facility of which we could all be proud.