Now that the proposed remodeling of the old Utah County Courthouse is dead, the Legislature is expected to appropriate money for a new facility for the 4th District Court and Provo's 4th Circuit Court.
In a recent meeting, state court officials, county commissioners and Provo city officials agreed to locate the two courts in one building.Gordon Bissegger, director of support services for state courts, said the state prefers that arrangement because it would save the cost of remodeling the courthouse for the district court and finding another building for the circuit court. The existing courthouse isn't large enough to accommodate both.
Utah County Commissioners Brent Morris and Sid Sandberg were against remodeling the courthouse; Commissioner Malcolm Beck favored the project.
Sandberg said: "I'm not so sure it's the optimal place for a court facility. Some have said that it was always meant to be a courthouse, but I'm not sure. It was always meant to be a public building."
He said the courts are not able to meet their own security standards in the present facility, and, at the same time, the public is unable to walk freely through the building without passing through a metal detector.
Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins said the city's major concern is getting the circuit courts out of the Provo City Building. "We need that space for our departments."
County commissioners - acting as the Utah County Building Authority - were expected to issue additional lease revenue bonds to remodel the courthouse, but Morris said the commissioners prefer that Provo act as the building authority. Once the building is complete, it will be leased to the state.
Those lease payments will pay off the revenue bonds, so the actual construction won't cost local government entities any tax money. The state plans to lease the new building with the option to buy, Bissegger said.
Jenkins said the city would serve as the building authority, but a county building authority already exists. He said the county could save taxpayer money if it acts as the authority.
The county has spent $70,000 in architect and bond counsel fees to study the remodeling, and if the county acted as the building authority that amount would be covered under a lease agreement with the state.
Morris rejected a proposal by local legislators asking the county to sell the courthouse to the state for a dollar and retire all bonds. Under that plan, the state would take over the building, remodel it and house the courts there.
It may be several years before construction of the new court building is complete, but commissioners said they will allow the district court to remain in the courthouse until the new facility is finished.