Grand County Judicial Center opens to applause of occupants
August 19, 2008
Clerk of Court Heather Harms has been settling into her new office at the brand new Grand County Judicial Center, where the building’s first court proceedings took place Monday.
“The biggest thing is space,” Harms said about enjoying her “new home” in a custom-designed office.
Her staff will now receive electronic sentencing data rather than waiting for printed versions, and a dumb waiter will deliver files to the county courtroom.
The new building has plenty of updated security features, such as an elevator that can operate by code not to open to others if inmates are on board.
Separate circulation was a definite improvement Harms noted, meaning inmates will no longer pass through the same corridors as court visitors and staff members.
“Things went pretty smooth,” she said about the building’s first day of business.
The only glitch she recalled was learning the new phone system, such as how to make conference calls.
Court officials purposefully kept Monday’s docket light just in case there were complications, but according to County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran, the building proved user-ready right away.
Big Valley Construction Company of Granby had delivered the building right on time and on schedule, the manager said.
It’s the first expansion of county and district court facilities since 1970, when an addition was added to the former county courthouse that now serves solely as the Grand County Administration Building. That building will receive a remodel soon.
“I think a lot of it was finding a building that really respected the historic courthouse and that really belonged on the same campus as the historic courthouse,” said Principal Architect Nan Anderson of Andrews and Anderson Architects, Golden.
Andrews and Anderson was the lead architect on the building, working with Alan B. Carter Architect of Granby.
“We were looking for ties to that sort of a detailing, the coloration the size and scale, and to have something there that was contemporary yet still fit nicely with the historic building,” Anderson said.
Anderson and Project Manager Bob Phillips aimed to incorporate as many Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green-building elements as possible, such as high performance glass, carpets with recycled materials, other sustainable flooring and working with local materials such as Denver-based bricks.
The initial plan to incorporate a geo-thermal heat system in the building, however, was nixed due to budget constraints.
Both the remodel and the new judicial building are being completed on a $10 million budget, with the judicial building coming in around $8.2 million.
Both projects are being paid for through a $9.9 million lease-purchase and a $1 million Department of Local Affairs grant. The remodel of the original courthouse for county services is estimated to cost $2.7 million. Costs above and beyond the lease purchase and grant will be covered by the general fund, Underbrink Curran said.
A new judicial facility has been in works for longer than a decade, ever since the district recognized the need for improved facilities. A failed ballot question forced the county to search for other funds.
“I think as far as a government entity setting aside money to make it happen is unheard of, and I’m pretty proud that it’s something Grand County was able to do,” said Commissioner James Newberry during a building dedication and open house Monday evening. “We wanted something we could be proud of, something that was functional. We didn’t want real elaborate … not for show, this is all for go. I think it will work well for the people of Grand County.”
At her new bench during post-ceremony tours of the facility, District Judge Mary Hoak noted the improved sound system and safety of the building, as well as a gadget that will create “white noise” for privacy when the judge and attorneys confer at the bench.
The judge will have the opportunity to enjoy the hillside views from her new location as well. Natural light flows into the courtroom from generous windows. “I think it’s absolutely beautiful,” Hoak said.
The building is expected to house the County Court, District Court, the district attorney’s offices, probation, court clerks and juvenile services for the next three decades.
The challenge of constructing the building in a time period that included heavy winter snowfall did not go unnoticed. The project started in July 2007 and was constructed during the following 13 months. Big Valley owner Troy Neiberger said in spite of the challenge, his crew came through and learned a lot about America’s court system in the process.
“We were grateful to be part of it,” Neiberger said. “We thank everyone for putting their trust in us.”
Board of County Commissioners Chairman Gary Bumgarner opened Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony with a nod to the past.
The commissioner’s grandfather, Frank Stafford, was the county chairman when the original courthouse next door was dedicated in 1937.
“It’s kind of neat to think that with a generation in between we are dedicating (a judicial building) to the people of Grand County again,” Bumgarner said, noting prior to the ceremony, “History is bound to repeat itself.”