Expanding judicial facility a priority | RecordCourier.com

Expanding judicial facility a priority

by Amy Alonzo

Expanding and remodeling the aging and undersized Judicial Law Enforcement Center is a priority, Douglas County commissioners said at their Thursday meeting.

Commissioners voted 5-0 to "direct staff to work with Judge Perkins and others of the law enforcement community to develop a plan and explore funding opportunities."

"This is one of the priorities we're going to be charged with in the next year or so," Commissioner Nancy McDermid said.

The current facility, located at 1038 Buckeye Road, opened in 1982 with an expected 20-25 years of service. The two-story building originally included an open lobby area, several waiting areas, a two-story atrium and an exercise area. Over the years those areas have been remodeled to maximize existing space, but the building is still about 35 percent undersized, according to a memo provided by the county.

“This is one of the priorities we’re going to be charged with in the next year or so.”Commissioner Nancy McDermid

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"It was a beautiful facility and it still is … But we're going to have to build a new courthouse," East Fork Justice Court Judge Tom Perkins said. "We have to face the facts."

Painting a picture of the building's overcrowding, Perkins described files stacked floor to ceiling in the recently expanded jail and a lack of security when perpetrators of crimes and their victims are within proximity to each other in courtrooms.

"There's no separation of judicial officers from the parties. There's no separation of parties and parties," he said. "Modern facilities are designed to separate perpetrators and victims of crimes. It's a public safety issue."

Perkins also said there is a need in the county for a second justice court and judge, but there isn't space in the current facility.

"Given the way this community is changing and the way the lake is changing, we need another judge here now, and we can't put him here because we don't have facilities," he said. "We're getting by with the staff and facilities we have, but sooner or later that has to change."

Douglas County Project Manager Scott McCullough said there are three main needs: Expansion and renovation of the current facility, construction of a parking garage and construction of a new court facility. Citing rough estimates, including 20 percent for indirect costs, the total project could come in at around $28-$32 million, he said. He estimated $3-4 million for the renovation and expansion, $12-$15 million for a new court facility and $8 million for a parking area.

McDermid questioned whether there is enough room at the current site for the expansion, parking garage and court. She also said the intersection where the current facility is located will change once the Bently Heritage Estate Distillery opens, and that should be a consideration as well.

"It's going to be a very, very congested intersection," concurred Commissioner Larry Walsh.

Chaiman Barry Penzel said, "There is an alternative … that offers a way to phase in everything and to put everybody on the same spot."

He said a potential 10-acre site has been identified that would allow the county to divest the Minden Inn and the Judicial Law Enforcement Center.

Sheriff Ron Pierini said he feels it's important that the jail remain in the same site given the money the county just invested in refurbishing it. He also expressed concern that various law enforcement departments could be separated in an expansion.

"Several years ago we increased a better jail facility, almost $5 million," he said. "I said at that time, that's always going to be our place. If we don't have that area … It's going to be very difficult for us to be spread all over Douglas County."