“Public comment” purpose of May 5 courthouse project hearing
Public comments on the proposed options for the courthouse space project will be the subject of a May 5 public hearing in Columbus.
The Stillwater County Commissioners announced two weeks ago at their regularly Tuesday morning meeting that the public hearing date had been set, but did not elaborate what would take place at that meeting.
In response to a question about what the purpose of the meeting, Commissioner Maureen Davey referred the SCN to a legal advertisement that was published in today’s issue that in part states “The purpose of the hearing is to accept comments from proponents and opponents regarding five (5) options identified by the planning process for providing additional county office space for county services.”
When asked what will happen after the May 5 meeting, Davey responded “Any decisions made would be on an agenda.”
Davey did not address a question about what kind of timeline would exist after the May 5 meeting.
Four options ranging from approximately $6 million to $17 million were presented at three public meetings held by the Stillwater County Commissioners and Spectrum Group Architects in January.
The current courthouse is aging and is too small to house all county offices.
The four options, or alternatives as they are referred to, are as follows:
•Alternate 1: Remodeling the old hospital and the first floor of the current courthouse: $6.37 million
•Alternate 2: Remodeling the current courthouse and construction of a new law & justice facility at
the courthouse: $15.32 million
•Alternate 3: Remodeling the current courthouse and construction of a new law & justice facility on
a new site: $17.17 million
•Alternate 4: Completely new county facilities on a new site: $17.54 million
Two letters from the sheriff
As of Tuesday, commissioners had received a total of eight letters from the public regarding the project. The two most recent were submitted by Stillwater County Sheriff Brophy.
The first letter addressed what he called immediate needs in the current courthouse. Brophy called the layout and design of the current Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office “inefficient and unsafe” as prisoners must now be moved in and around county offices and civilian employees while being processed.
“It is not uncommon for arrestees to become unruly and combative. This poses a significant security risk and safety risk to civilian employees that are in the same area while doing their day to day operations,” Brophy’s letter states.
Brophy added that there are many other security risks that need to be addressed but “because this is a public document, those will not be listed in detail for security reasons.”
He also addressed the proposed solution of moving the majority of courthouse staff to the old hospital, writing he has “significant concern for public safety, employee safety and safety to area residents and businesses” and has “absolutely no confidence” that the proposed design would make it a safe process.
“Having a prisoner transport and courtroom across from a large day-care center and adjoining assisted living facility is absurd at best,” Brophy wrote.
He recommends “a comprehensive professional study be conducted by an architect firm that can put accurate and unbiased figures together for consideration of the voters and taxpayers of Stillwater County.
Brophy’s second letter took aim at Spectrum Group Architects, highlighting errors discovered by audience members at the public meetings.
Brophy noted that during the public meeting held in Columbus, a local businessman and a contractor each pointed out issues with information being presented, which totaled “almost three quarters of a million dollars.”
“Based on my personal observations, I find it very concerning that an architectural firm would take on a project costing from $70,000 to $80,000 to come up with limited information that is grossly inaccurate in its figures, missing critical information such as offices, and does not clearly represent equal comparisons,” Brophy wrote.
Just as Undersheriff Chip Kem had expressed in a recent letter to the commissioners about Spectrum, Brophy states that should they continue to contract with the group, he would not be willing to work with them.