Decisions still to be made for justice center

RBC I Only one or two things remain certain in regard to the remodel/rebuild of the Rio Blanco County Courthouse in Meeker; one is that downtown business owners, Meeker town officials and the Meeker Chamber of Commerce want the complex to remain in downtown Meeker; the other being that geothermal energy is cheaper than the standard chiller/boiler method of temperature control.
The Rio Blanco County commissioners held an open workshop Monday afternoon via teleconference with Jim Lichty, the architect with Archetype Design Group of Leawood, Kan., the group doing the design and cost comparison work for the county.
When the commissioners addressed the issue at the March 11 meeting, they asked Lichty to do a price comparison between a new justice center out of town, a three-story addition to the current courthouse with that addition housing the courts, jail and the sheriff’s office, and the remodel of the courthouse for county offices and utilizing the old elementary school for the new justice center.
No decisions were made Tuesday, but once again Commission Chairman Shawn Bolton stated that time is of the essence because there are many vital repairs needed at the current courthouse and that a decision needs to made to either repair those problems soon or to take care of them with the remodel.
After the cost comparisons were presented, Meeker Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kaitlin Cook, downtown business owners Bobby Gutierrez and Melinda Parker, Meeker Mayor Mandi Etheridge and other Meeker town officials and business owners expressed their support for keeping the complex downtown instead of at Meeker Terrace, which was only used as a comparison site of what it would cost if built outside of town.
Several issues were cited as needing improvements at the current courthouse: lack of parking; inmate movement/security to keep the public safe; heating and cooling issues; the courthouse is not up to Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance; and the justice center should be in its own location with courts, jail, sheriff’s office, etc.
“I think it was a good meeting,” Boland said. “Before I was involved on the county board, I understand that the old elementary school was completely out of the picture as no one wanted to touch the old building.
“Now it seems as though the Meeker Town Board is open to discussing the use of the school, which could be great for both entities,” he said. “It would prevent there being a vacant building downtown and we could use the rock and stone from the building and keep the new one- or one-and-a-half-story building in character with the downtown area.”
Building the justice center away from the current courthouse property would save approximately $1 million, Lichty and Bolton said. The plan for expansion at the current courthouse has lots of wasted space to fit and retrofit, so not as much space would be needed if we were able to use an off-site location, Boland said.
“We got some good information,” he said. “I hope we can work with the town and see where we can go. I think the entire board of commissioners is leaning toward that direction, but I would assure the town officials that we don’t want to change the face of the downtown area.”
In action at the regular morning meeting on Monday, the commissioners:
n Approved consideration of an application for $40,000 to the Area Council on Aging for senior nutritional grants.
n Approved an agreement for dietician services for the White River Round-Up, not to exceed $3,000,
n Opened a bid for a Class 8 truck from Western Colorado Truck Center in Fruita for a 2012 Volvo at a cost of $126,475. Bid needs to be examined to make certain all specifications are met.
n Opened a bid from Coulter Aviation for aerial spraying for the Lower Piceance Pest Control District. Bid needs to be examined to make certain all specifications are met.
n Opened bids for herbicide hand spraying for 5,000 acres in the Lower Piceance Pest Control District. Andy Julius Agricultural Services bid $70/hr with no transportation costs; noxious weed management bid $70/hr with transportation expenses one way.
n Voted unanimously to enter into record a resolution opposing passage of Senate Bill 13-252.
n Voted unanimously to authorize the county treasurer and her deputy to invest Rio Blanco County public funds in the Colorado Surplus Asset Fund Trust.