The county and state have all but finished working out an agreement to finance remodeling of the County Courthouse in preparation for leasing the facility to the state, but some officials are starting to have second thoughts.
As mandated by the Legislature, the state next January will assume the cost of running 4th District Court, housed in the Utah County Courthouse. The county will use proceeds from leasing the building to the state to retire $2.8 million in bonds for remodeling that will better accommodate 4th District Court needs.Originally, 4th Circuit Court's Provo facilities also were to be moved into the courthouse as part of the remodeling project. A new building, however, is being planned to house the circuit court.
"I have some real concern about a new building for the circuit court," said state Sen. LeRay McAllister, R-Orem, chairman of the General Government Capital Facilities Appropriations Subcommittee.
McAllister said a new building for the circuit court, which would cost between $2 million and $5 million, may not be in the best interest of taxpayers. Space in the proposed new building could cost as much as six times the current rent in the Provo City Building, where the circuit court is now, he said.
McAllister said space for circuit-court needs likely could be found in existing buildings. He hasn't ruled out relocating the circuit court in the remodeled County Courthouse. He said he'd like to make sure what those reasons are for not relocating the circuit court in the courthouse.
McAllister said a final decision could be made as soon as Monday when officials meet with Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins to discuss relocating the court.
"We'd certainly like to accommodate the circuit courts any way we can," County Commissioner Gary Anderson said. But in light of district court space needs and remodeling plans, he said, there won't be enough room in the courthouse.
"This has been worked out for a long time," Anderson said of state plans to have only the district court in the courthouse. "This is their request."
County Commissioner Brent Morris said original plans were to move the circuit court into the courthouse, but those plans were altered following discussions with the state court administrator's office.
"We're a little down the road now for a stumbling block to come along," he said.
Morris said he is concerned, however, that the remodeled courthouse may be inadequate for 4th District Court needs in about 10 years. "But if the state court administrator feels confident with it, what else can we do?" he said.
The county has earmarked $1.8 million in bonds for remodeling, but County Engineer Clyde Naylor this week recommended a bond addition of $1 million to finance additional remodeling alternatives suggested by Boyer Co. and MHT Architects of Salt Lake City.
"All of the alternatives are minor in nature except for the alternatives related to the structural components of the building . . . which would give the building some real security in the event of an earthquake," Naylor told commissioners in a letter July 5.
Even without extras associated with structural improvements, "it would still be necessary to make some addition to the bonding available for the project," he said.
Naylor said expected annual financing costs would be $285,000. Recommended rental charges to the state would be $415,000 annually for about 20 years until the bonds are retired.