KINGMAN - After listening to public comment and reports about security and cost, the Mohave County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to proceed with preserving and expanding the historic downtown courthouse.
The board also voted 4-1 to approve spending $15.1 million in a Wells Fargo sales tax account to build the courthouse, with a caveat that the county administrator provides a full report on the funding to the supervisors.
Supervisor Buster Johnson, who cast the lone vote against accepting the courthouse report and funding, acknowledged that the 100-year-old courthouse is the most well-known building in the county and needs to be preserved.
However, he still favored the more expensive Option A in the original plan presented by the National Center for State Courts, which is to build the new courthouse on a hilltop site near the county jail. He said it would provide better security for prisoner transport and save on fuel costs.
"Obviously I don't agree with that site (downtown)," Johnson said. "It's not that much farther for lawyers to drive. They have to drive to the jail now to see their clients."
Plan B would renovate the existing courthouse and expand it to 89,000 square feet with a connecting four-story building.
Charles Gurtler, Superior Court presiding judge, has been a strong proponent for that idea. He said security for court staff and the general public has been a major concern when transporting prisoners through the hallway to the courtroom. They're behind a locked partition to the judges' chambers, but they're in the same area where jury members are led to the courtroom, walking directly past defendants.
Those concerns are addressed in the plan approved Tuesday. A sallyport will keep prisoners separated from the general public.
Board chairman Steve Moss said a couple of things "jumped out" at him when he read the report. There were a half-dozen security issues.
"That's been a concern," court administrator Kip Anderson responded. "We had a murder trial last week. These individuals come into the courthouse and sit in the hall next to members of the public. One of those individuals going crazy or reaching out to the public or staff could create a huge liability for the county."
Supervisor Jean Bishop made the motion to accept Option B, citing the historical value of the courthouse.
"I'm a big supporter of the revival of downtown Kingman and I think restoring the courthouse is a part of it," she said.
Gurtler said going with the less expensive option is more favorable and allows for renovation of the old courthouse at a later time. With respect to prisoner transport, the security issue has been, and still remains, moving them from vehicles into the courthouse and then access to the courtroom through staff and the public, he said.
The next step is putting out a request for proposal for retention of an architect.
Gurtler asked the board to use some of the $6.8 million vehicle replacement funds to hire an architect.
The county will see competitive bidding for architectural services, the judge said. He was introduced to a Phoenix architect and was advised of statewide interest in the project, especially since there aren't very many projects out there. He expects architect fees to be around $1.5 million to $1.8 million.
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