Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Stillwater County courthouse is an aging and crowded building that most agree needs to be either refurbished, replaced or offices relocated.

No one will see courthouse study early

Report to be released at first public meeting

Despite the Stillwater County Commissioners recent statement that the courthouse space feasibility options study would be done and returned to them prior to three public meetings this month, no one will see the report until that first meeting.
That includes the commissioners.
Approximately $70,000 has been paid to Spectrum Group Architects for what is being called the options package feasibility study regarding to courthouse, according to Stillwater County Finance Office.
During the last week of November, Commissioner Chairman Gerald Dell told the SCN that Spectrum had notified his office that the feasibility study was nearly completed and that the report was due to be back to the commissioner’s mid-December.
When asked about the status of that last week, Dell responded via email:
“At the three public meetings being held on Jan. 13, 14 and 15, 2015 the study report given out by Spectrum Group. This will the first time that anyone has seen the final report, even the commissioners.”
Dell said the new development was not what the commission had expected, but that it will allow the report to be presented without any possible influence on anyone’s part.
Spectrum did not respond to three separate emails from the SCN regarding the project specifically asking for the study results.
Those public meetings are Jan. 13 in Absarokee, Jan. 14 in Columbus and Jan. 15 in Park City.
Even before it was known that the report would not be available prior to the meetings, Dell said it had not been decided if the document was going to be made available to the public beforehand.
There have been no public reports on the project since August 2013.

The Project
The “space options package” feasibility study, also being called Phase II, explores four possible options regarding the renovation/relocation of the current courthouse. Those options are as follows:
•Remodel of the current courthouse
•Building a new courthouse at the present location
•Building a new Law & Justice Center at the current courthouse site
•Building a new Law & Justice Center at a different location
In the original contract between Spectrum and the county, Phase II was “design development and construction,” according to multiple documents. That changed following written and verbal objections from 22nd Judicial District Judge Blair Jones and other department heads, who pointedly suggested commissioners had already decided on remodeling the old hospital and did not plan to research other options.
Commissioners strongly denied that contention, arguing they had only begun the research process. However, they did request Spectrum conduct a feasibility study looking at four other options, which was not part of the original contract.
Phase 1 of the study included “programming and schematics” for renovating the old hospital to accommodate county courthouse offices. Spectrum’s estimated price of going that route was $2.62 million.