A new county courthouse just a downtown Olympia redevelopment project

August 11th, 2016 by Ken

It’s been a year since Thurston County Commissioners received a report suggesting that taxpayers build a new courthouse in downtown Olympia for a cost exceeding $100,000,000.   To date nothing public has been done with the report, although courthouse constituents have been highly enthused about the project.

A 200 page report from consultants suggested several possible alternatives for courthouse expansion, renewal or construction  elsewhere.   The prefered option, according to the consultants, is what is termed – – Urban Infill.  In otherwords, building a new courthouse facility in downtown Olympia.

In this concept there would be a new Justice Facility Building, three new Administation Buildings and two new parking garages.   All of the structures would be designed to last 100 years.   The downside is the location of the project and the costs would depend on the location, the soil type and the ground water table.

Costs for building in downtown Olympia, according to the consultants, break out as this:  Site preparation work $2.9 million – Courthouse construction $44.7 million – New Parking Garage $11.2 million – Administration Building $15.9 million – Supporting Buildings $15.9 million (these include sheriff’s office, prosecuting attorney, human resources and others) – $12.9 million for second parking garage.   Total cost – – $103.4 million.   This does not include the cost of construction which will add about 25 percent to the total cost.

Consultants have suggested several funding methods including a General Obligation Bond.   Those would have to go to the voters and be approved by 60 percent of them.  The consultants pointed out that the last GO Bond – to build a “Thurston County Regional Justice Center” – failed miserably with only 38.5 percent of the taxpayers voting for it.

The method favored by the consultants is a public/private partnership where private enterprise will build the facilities and the county would enter into a long term lease of the buildings.

Personal opinion:  I think county staff are seeing a problem that doesn’t exist.  With the new off-site jail open and operating, it frees up space at the current courthouse.   The population growth in the county to more than 250,000 does cause some pressure on court facilities.   The county could lease buildings to handle the increased caseload. Those buildings are available and adjacent to the current courthouse.   As a taxpayer in Lacey, I’m not going to pay one single penny to use a new courthouse as a downtown Olympia redevelopment fund.

Posted in The Real News

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