Judicial building expansion could make 2018 ballot | RecordCourier.com

Judicial building expansion could make 2018 ballot

If a proposal to expand the Douglas County Judicial & Law Enforcement Building is to go to voters that information will have to be ready in March.

On Thursday, county commissioners asked officials to bring back funding options in January to decide what to do about a $31.6 million project.

Those options could include going to voters with a bond.

Commission Chairman Barry Penzel questioned whether a better plan wouldn’t be to combine all county services in a single site.

“It is impossible to not put this before the voters, and the question is do you want to go with us or go without us,” he said.

Penzel asked whether it wouldn’t be more effective to sell the Minden Inn, where several county offices are located.

The county also has offices in the historic Minden courthouse and across 8th Street in Minden where 911 Dispatch exists.

County Manager Larry Werner said the process to assess the county’s needs would require the same two years the work on the law enforcement center presented on Thursday.

East Fork Justice of the Peace Tom Perkins said he was disappointed when he learned the $31.6 million bottom line for the new law enforcement center.

“I’m not going to wait until you get started.” Perkins said “I don’t want to do this without the support of the board. When we come back here with funding options, and you guys don’t think this is a good idea then I want you to vote against it,” Perkins said. “I can tell you what the needs are. I can pull the trigger and have another justice court if you want, and put them in a trailer in the parking lot.”

Nevada law requires that an additional justice of the peace be added to a township when it reaches 34,000 people unless the presiding judge sends a letter indicating that the additional justice isn’t required. East Fork reached that population in 2000.

Construction costs have increased in the two years since the law enforcement and judicial officials first started looking at the building.

“One of the things that made my stomach drop was the bottom line,” Perkins said. “We had a conceptual figure for a much nicer facility in mind when we started two years ago.”

The Great Recession contributed to the shortage of manpower in the building trades, according to courthouse architect Kevin Quan.

“Material costs have increased over the last five years,” he said saying inflation was running about 5 percent a year. “The price of materials is so much higher. The price of wood steel and concrete affects that cost.”

County commissioner Steve Thaler said he wasn’t afraid of the two years it would take for the rest of the county to have a needs assessment.

The original building was constructed starting in 1980 for $4.5 million raised when voters approved a $6 million bond. The rest of the money built the county’s Stateline offices.

Until 1982, the county jail was located in the basement of the historic Douglas County Courthouse, with judicial proceedings taking place in what is now commissioners’ chambers.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the county in 1979 over conditions in the old jail.