Friday, March 16, 2018

Majority of public input favors remodel of current courthouse and on-site construction

•Alernate 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

Three weeks after the closing of the public comment period of the courthouse space options project, Stillwater County commissioners have no update -- or timeline -- as to when a decision might be made.
At issue are four alternatives developed through two feasibility studies over the course of nearly three years at a cost of approximately $70,000. The written public comment period for the project closed on May 19. The public hearing was held on May 7.

The Public Weighs In
In the past few months there have been approximately 23 letters and email messages submitted by citizens and groups to the commissioners and on file in the County Clerk & Recorder’s Office.
Of those, 10 support Alternate 2, three support Alternate 3 and five support Alternate 4.
Five did not specify an Alternate and of those, one expressed concerns about a lack of a process being used, three spoke of the importance of historic preservation and one was in favor of new facilities.
At the May 7 public hearing, nine people spoke in favor of Alternate 2, one spoke in favor of Alternate 3 and one spoke in favor of Alternate 4. Some of these people also wrote letters to the commissioners, which are included in the above count.
No one spoke or wrote to the commissioners in favor of Alternate 1 and a handful of citizens have said or written that they oppose it. One person did express support for this alternate, with some variations, in a letter to the editor.
Commissioners were contacted Monday about the status of the project, a timeline and why the information about the project was no longer on the website. They did not respond to the latter two by press time.
Also addressed in letters to the commission from at least four people are concerns about Spectrum Group Architects, the company the county contracted to perform the feasibility studies. Concerns center around Spectrum’s involvement in the Lame Deer School project as well as what has been called incomplete and some inaccurate information presented at three public meetings held in January.
Citizen Jim Movius wrote “Spectrum has been the subject of correspondence and reports that raise the issue of carefulness and competence.” Movius specifically questions why “funds on hand do not appear as contributions to the other alternatives.”
Those expressing such concerns include 22 Judicial District Judge Blair Jones, Stillwater County Sheriff Cliff Brophy, Undersheriff Chip Kem , an historic architecture specialist and at least one citizen.

West Annex
Meanwhile, the Stillwater County MSU Extension Office has now moved into new space what is referred to as the “West Annex.” That building is commonly considered part of the old hospital and is located beneath the Meadowlark Assisted Living facility. Hospital administration once occupied that space.