Commissioner: “As times permits..we’ll get back to the courthouse”
The courthouse space options project has been put on the back-burner so the Stillwater County Commissioners can concentrate on the budget and other business.
“As time permits...we’ll get back to the courthouse,” said Commissioner Maureen Davey during a regular agenda meeting recently.
The comments were made in response to citizen Shirlee Keffer’s recent statements during the public comment portion of recent agenda meetings in which she expressed disappointment that no updates had been given on the project that has occupied a great deal of time and attention in recent months.
In making the comments about the courthouse project, Commissioner Gerald Dell said the commission was responding to two specific questions voiced by Keffer:
1. The involvement of an architect with historical restoration experience.
2. The status of the Norton House.
Regarding the use of an architectural firm with historical restoration experience, Dell held up a thick bound document from Spectrum Group Architects and said the information contained within spoke to the issue of historical restoration experience and could be reviewed at anytime in the Clerk & Recorder’s Office.
That document was the bid that Spectrum submitted to the county in 2012, which lists the following three past projects under the heading of historical:
•Teton County Courthouse: $2.8 million (22,275 square feet)
•Fort Peck Theater: $77,400 (10,650 square feet)
•Fergus Electric Co-Op: $962,000 (18,000 square feet)
On Spectrum’s website, under “Historical Preservation” is listed their work on the Teton County Courthouse as follows:
“Spectrum helped Teton County develop plans for restoring the courthouse which was accomplished in three phases. The courthouse roof was replaced with a new cedar shake roof matching the original. The old metal flashing and details were reused where possible or remanufactured where new flashing was needed. The wood facias and soffit detailing were remanufactured to the exact original dimensions where required. The original building paint color was also matched.
The windows were replaced with modern energy efficient windows matching the original double hung window detailing. The courthouse was also made handicap accessible while respecting the historic fabric of the original detailing.”
Public officials and members of the public alike have questioned using Spectrum due to that firm’s involvement in the Lame Deer School project, as well as mistakes and vague information presented at three public meetings at which Spectrum outlined the four options it had developed after conducting two feasibility studies.
Regarding the Norton House, commissioners said they did not know if the Stillwater Historical Society had taken a stance on that issue. SHS member and Museum of the Beartooths Executive Director Penny Redli was in attendance and said the group had taken a stance, which was to fully support the efforts of resident Bill Hagen who is working with the house.
At an agenda meeting two weeks ago, Keffer thanked the commissioners for their comments on the courthouse options project, but wanted to know when there would be a decision made.
Work at the old hospital, a water leak at the West Annex
A water leak in the West Annex county office building led to a small hole in the ceiling and the Stillwater County Commissioners investigating dark marks on vents in those offices.
The leak was discovered late last week in an unoccupied office where planning records are currently kept. The vents in at least four offices located in the West Annex are showing dark streaks.
“The black streaks are from a belt going bad in the air handling unit and the cleaning people have not cleaned the streaks off the wall,”said Commissioner Gerald Dell in email to the News.
The streaks have been on the vents for more than a year.
Other activity at that location Monday included a mini truck being backed up to a window of the old hospital and items being thrown in the bed through the open window.
Commissioners did not respond to two inquiries about what activity was going on.
The old hospital is a building of interest as it is listed under a courthouse space options study as a possible site for new county offices. Five county offices have already been moved to what is now called the West Annex, and was once the Stillwater Community Hospital’s administration offices. The old hospital is owned by Stillwater County and is attached to the Meadowlark Assisted Living Facility.
Under Alternative 1 of the courthouse space options study, the old hospital would be remodeled and all county offices moved there, with the exception of the criminal justice offices, which would potentially remain at the current courthouse once it is remodeled.
A total of four alternatives have been presented through public meetings, a public hearing a public comment period. Those range in cost from $6.37 million to $17.54 million. The county has spent approximately $70,000 on two feasibility studies regarding courthouse space issues.
Commissioners have repeatedly said that no decisions have been made.