Discontent between judge and commissioners flares at Park City meeting
Aside from the mountain of information presented last week at three public meetings about possible options for solving the county courthouse space problems, there was an under-current of discontent that flared at each meeting.
“Are you calling me a liar?” Commissioner Maureen Davey shouted twice at District Court Judge Jones at the Park City meeting.
Davey’s comments were part of a brief but heated shouting match between herself and District Judge Blair Jones prompted when Jones loudly accused her of favoring one specific option and not being honest about it.
Earlier in the meeting, Davey acknowledged that in the beginning she did favor the first option of a remodel of the old hospital but the public hearings had changed things for her.
Spectrum Group Architect Gary Levine acknowledged at all three meetings that the hospital remodel was “the path the commissioners have wanted to take.”
Jones, Stillwater County Sheriff Cliff Brophy and other county department heads have been unhappy with the commissioners about how the process of finding a solution to the courthouse problems began and what they have called less than transparent actions on behalf of the commissioners.
Those alleged actions include having Spectrum Group Architects conduct a feasibility study looking only at remodeling the old hospital without taking county worker’s concerns into account.
The problem centers on the commissioners initially hiring and directing Spectrum Group Architects to conduct a feasibility study only on remodeling the old hospital and moving all county offices there. Jones, Brophy and other department heads reacted strongly when it was discovered that safety would be an issue under that plan and they felt as if their concerns were being pushed aside. The commissioners maintained throughout that no decisions had been made and everything was basically at the research level.
At the public meeting in Columbus, Jones expressed his concerns and frustrations with Spectrum Architect Gary Levine, saying he had “major safety concerns which had been confirmed by the U.S. Marshals.” Jones also pointed out the fact that under the new Alternative 1, which would include the remodeling of the old hospital as well as the first floor of the old courthouse, there is no room for growth in the county offices.
“Option 1 is already outdated, isn’t it?” Jones asked Levine, who answered yes.
“So why would we build something that is already tight for $6 million?” said Jones.
Jones also told Levine and the commissioners at the Columbus meeting that because the courtroom designed by Spectrum for the old hospital had no lobby or offices, there was no place for people to go who were waiting for court.
That could lead to dangerous situations considering some of his clientele, many of whom are violent offenders, said Jones.
“A lawsuit on a scenario like that would wipe out all the savings you think you’ve made,” said Jones.