Study: Courthouse future ranges from $6 mil. to $17 mil.
It will take between $6 million and $17 million for Stillwater County to solve its problem with an overcrowded and aging courthouse.
Those were the book-end price tags presented to taxpayers by Spectrum Group Architects at three public meetings held this week. Four possible plans complete with price tags on the courthouse options project were presented to taxpayers this week in three public meetings.
With the aid of the Stillwater County Commissioners, Spectrum Architect Gary Levine presented the information starting Tuesday night in Absarokee. Spectrum was given a total of five options to research and from those, the group developed four alternatives that would suit the county’s needs. Those alternatives are as follows:
Remodeling the old hospital and the first floor of the current courthouse: $6.37 million
Remodeling the current courthouse and construction of a new law & justice facility at the courthouse: $15.32 million
Remodeling the current courthouse and construction of a new law & justice facility on a new site: $17.17 million
Completely new county facilities on a new site: $17.54 million
In Alternate 1, all county offices would be moved to the old hospital after it is fully remodeled, with the exception of the following: sheriff, county attorney, victim/witness advocate, youth probation and Alternatives. Those offices would all be located on the first floor of the courthouse
According to Spectrum, the primary advantage of Alternate 1 is the initial cost, which is significantly lower than the other alternatives.
The primary disadvantage is that some county offices would have to remain at the current courthouse due to space limitation. Spectrum further noted that the current courthouse is not handicap compliant and does not comply with current building or energy codes or life safety requirements.
In addition, there is a differential settlement issue with the building which is being monitored but would take money to make stable enough for those offices to remain in the current courthouse.
During the question and answer session at the Absarokee meeting Tuesday night, Spectrum called Alternative “tight” as far as providing for enough space needed and allowed no room for growth.
Alternative 1 was developed from Option 1, which was only the remodeling of the old hospital. Levine said Tuesday that the commissioners had wanted to take that path because they had the money to proceed without having to ask for a mill.
In Alternate 2, the entire courthouse would be remodeled and a two-story “Law & Justice” building would be added to house the sheriff’s office, county attorney’s office, victim/witness advocate’s office and Alternatives.
The primary advantage to Alternate 2 is the restoration of the historic courthouse. Spectrum said that new and less expensive stabilization techniques have been developed that would help with the “differential settlement.”
The primary disadvantage is the need for the structural stabilization and basically replacing all electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems as well as the addition of an elevator and other ADA modifications to bring the current courthouse up to code. Additionally, because the courthouse is fully occupied, remodeling would take longer than if work was being done on an empty building.
In Alternate 3, the courthouse would be remodeled and a new “Law & Justice” facility would be built off-site. Spectrum did not prepare any visual aids for this alternative for the public meetings, but said one obvious disadvantage would be finding and purchasing land to on which to build a Law & Justice facility.
In Alternate 4, a new county facilities would be built on a new site. Again, Spectrum did not prepare any visual aids for this alternative and said that again, a disadvantage with this would be finding and buying land.
According to Spectrum, based on a 20-year bond repaid at 4.26 percent, the estimated tax increase per year on houses ranging from $50,000 to $250,000 would range from $20.59 to $102.94 for Alternative 2 and $23.53 to $117.67 for Alternative 4.