Thursday, March 22, 2018

More questions than answers about courthouse project

Preserving Historical Buildings is one way of passing our Heritage on to future generations. Recalling some words of wisdom offered by a Montana State Historical Architect: “Historical buildings of a community do not always survive the process of transition in the modification of function..However the community needs to completely work through the discussion to a consensus about preservation or replacement of a Historical Building, otherwise a rift may exist in the community for future decades.”
My knowledge of previous presentations is limited having not attended Courthouse Facilities meetings prior to the May 5 meeting, when these questions were raised; “Where are we going from here? What is the next step in the process? Will all of county offices be in the same facility or scattered across the community?” At this point in time I do not have a concept of what those answers are.
The message that I perceived from testimony May 5, was one of confusion about the long term plans and data in the proposals presented by the Spectrum Group Architects. I would have to agree that I find the Spectrum proposals to be difficult to understand and follow through the Options 1 - 5 and Alternate 1 - 4 and various combinations thereof.
Total construction costs and total square footage do not adequately answer some of the pressing questions: What is the square footage necessary for efficient operation for the individual county departments? Is the building cost per square foot competitive in today’s construction market and are we providing a solution to the argument: “Inadequate space limitations in our current courthouse”? Will the new offices be bright and welcoming?
So far I have not seen an informative proposal with adequate information necessary to answer these questions and inspire the Stillwater community to accept an increase in tax levies to provide a facility to house our County Government for the next 100 years.
Will the $6,379,282.00 remodel of the Old Hospital sustain our needs for the next 100 years? I suspect that in pursuing this option we will be trying to solve the same issues in the next decade.
Whatever the decision, I think our Stillwater County community needs an efficient, esthetically pleasing facility that provides for all of our needs, including the Stillwater County Library and community meeting room of which future generations can be proud of. This will not be accomplished by a metal-sided building that becomes lost in the dysfunctional planning and unaesthetic group of urban structures where Highway 78 enters our community from Interstate 90.
Will the existing historical courthouse be a part of the solution? I think it could be with some innovative thinking and planning in conjunction with the Law and Justice expertise of Judge Jones and additional engineering and architectural consultation with the agencies who have offered their assistance.

Raymond G. Lien