Now that it looks as though the County Courthouse won't be remodeled to accommodate the 4th Circuit Court for the next 20 years, County Commission Chairman Brent Morris said alternative uses can be considered.
On Tuesday, Deputy State Court Administrator Gordon Bissegger said the proposed $2.8 million remodeling project had been put on indefinite hold and likely will be killed. He cited lack of support from two of three commissioners and the fact that co-locating the District Court with Provo's 4th Circuit Court in a new building in Provo would cost about the same as remodeling.Morris said a lease agreement between the state and Provo City, which would construct the new building, could pave the way for construction of the facility this year. Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins said state officials likely would want to purchase the building outright eventually. But so far, "there's been no talk about that, not at all."
If the state decides to build its own building, the project would have to be placed on the state Building Board's project waiting list, which could mean a delay of several years. Morris said the county would be willing to enter into a short-term lease agreement to keep the District Court in the courthouse in the interim.
But even without the District Court in the courthouse, some remodeling is needed to address seismic concerns, Morris said. Preliminary estimates by Bullock Associates Architects and MHT Architects have placed the cost at between $120,000 and $500,000. Morris said the proj-ect should go out to bid to determine an accurate cost.
"The design and use of that building needs to be a citizens' decision, not a decision by the Board of County Commissioners," Morris said.
He proposes establishing a citizens committee to study alternative uses. Commissioner Sid Sandberg has scheduled a public meeting Jan. 26 at the Memorial Hall in Spanish Fork, 386 N. Main, to gather input on the courthouse and other issues. Subsequent meetings will be held in Provo and American Fork.
One possible future use of part of the courthouse could be housing sheriff's department administrative offices to make room for expansion of the county jail, where the offices are currently located. Morris said courthouse space also could be used for expansion of other government offices.
Other possibilities include using portions of the building as a museum, county library and art gallery. Social functions could be held in the building as well, Morris said.
"Had the remodeling lease agreement (between the county and state) been signed, we would have been unable to use the beauty of the courthouse rotunda for social events for the community," he said.
"And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I don't know yet what is the best use of the county building."