What happens now?
Approximately 60 residents filed into the Columbus fairgrounds Tuesday night for the public hearing on the courthouse space options project.
An hour and a half later, the only new information known was that written public comment will be taken through May 19.
The purpose of the public hearing was to take comments from both proponents and opponents of the four alternatives developed through two feasibility studies. Those alternatives 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
The hearing began with Commissioner Gerald Dell reading a handout of the history of the project starting in January 2011. The hearing was structured with commissioners calling for comments of proponents for Alternative 1, followed by proponents of Alternative 1, and repeated through the remaining three alternates.
Approximately 17 citizens took the opportunity to speak.
There was not a question and answer session, although some in attendance did pose questions and other comments outside the parameters of the alternatives. Some of those comments included recommendations to hire firms that specialize in historical building remodeling and a request to include local people associated with businesses that have actually done previous studies of the courthouse.
Three people asked what happens now in the process, but were not given answers.
“It seems like this is going on and on,” said Rick Hamilton, Columbus resident and business owner.
And at least three people said they didn’t feel like there was enough information at this point to even make a choice.
Opinions on Alternatives
There were no proponents for Alternative 1 and four opponents. The opponents included Jim Movius, Harry Harsha, Maurie Petterson and Barbara Henderson who all said the old hospital is not worth saving.
Nine people spoke in favor of Alternative 2, most of whom spoke of the historical importance of the current courthouse. Two opponents expressed their concerns of spending tax dollars on an old building. Harsha said he was concerned that the courthouse could even be salvaged due to its problems, which include ADA and foundations issues. Jack Knorr said he opposed using any tax money to refurbish an old building
One person spoke in favor of Alternative 3 and one spoke against it. And one person -- County Treasurer Jerry Friend -- spoke in favor of Alternative 4. Friend began by saying he was probably “committing political suicide” but that he had watched this scenario play out many years ago with a courthouse study that ended with the then-commissioners “rolling up the plans” and doing nothing. Friend also said he is against putting substantial money into an old building.
Just before the close of the hearing, Commissioner Dennis Shupak addressed concerns about the condition of the old hospital, saying the roof could be replaced to take care of that issue.
Commissioners also urged people to look at all the available information at the Clerk & Recorder’s Office, saying that is where the “accurate” information can be found.