State and county officials have decided to organize a steering committee and appoint an architect to oversee remodeling of the old Utah County Courthouse, which will continue to house the 4th District Court.
As mandated by the Legislature, the state next year will take over the district courts. Utah County offices will be moved to the new Utah County Regional Government Center this summer, and the old building will be remodeled to better accommodate district courtrooms.State officials have expressed concern about whether $1.8 million in bonds the county has earmarked for remodeling would be enough to address security concerns. County officials plan to retire the bonds using proceeds from leasing the building to the state.
"We build courts a lot differently now than when we built this building," Dal Allred, of the state Division of Facilities Construction and Management, said during a meeting Tuesday with county commissioners.
Gordon Bissegger, assistant state courts administrator, said officials have been trying to determine how suitable the courthouse is for long-term remodeling. Last fall, officials said adequate remodeling, including installation of security measures, would cost close to $6 million.
State Court Administrator Bill Vickrey, however, told commissioners his office has been instructed to negotiate a lease with the county and that the state has no plans of moving the 4th District Court to another building.
"We have no authorization to do anything else," he said.
Commissioner Gary Anderson welcomed the announcement, but said the county doesn't want to spend $1.8 million on remodeling unless the state plans to lease the building long enough for the county to retire the bonds between 15 and 20 years.
Bissegger said the state can enter into a long-term agreement at seven-year intervals.
"We would like the courts in here," Anderson said. "We think this is a courthouse."
Michael Havemann, trial court executive, said the 4th District Court's four judges also prefer staying in the building.
Officials decided to appoint a steering committee and architect to develop a master plan for remodeling the building and to draw up a lease agreement. Committee members will be chosen and begin meeting within the next few weeks.
"I think if this works out, it will be a good long-term use of this space for the courts and public," Vickrey said.