Carbon commissioners reaffirm plans to construct county courthouse facility
Carbon officials reiterated plans last week to construct a courthouse to replace the current facility, now in its 47th year.
In a special meeting on Dec. 14, county commissioners agreed to move forward with plans to build a new facility and shot down a proposal to place earnest money on a potential site for the new courthouse.
County officials estimated that they would need at least five acres to build the courthouse. However, the estimates are preliminary, as the county has not performed an analysis of how large of a facility is needed or how it will be constructed.
The county courthouse is nearing its 50th year, when the building will become eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
If the courthouse is listed in the register and the county determines that the building should be demolished, getting it removed from the national listing can delay or even prohibit demolition.
And as is stands, the costs associated with and renovation are prohibitive.
Leaking roofs and a reported mold problem would be costly to repair.
Further, the courthouse is not compliant with many guidelines set by the Americans with Disabilities Act and county government has outgrown the office space it has available.
Some individuals are working out of converted closets and there is little to no storage space available.
Installing elevators and performing other renovations to make the current facility usable into the foreseeable future would only add to the price tag for renovation.
As a result, county officials are looking at the possibility of building a new courthouse to replace the current building in the near future.
"There is a desire to get a new building. [The current courthouse] is old and worn out. It's a question of when, where and how," said Commissioner Steve Burge.
Dave Levanger, director of the county planning department, reported to commissioners the results of a limited site search performed by his department. Levanger said he looked at a couple of locations in and around Price.
Possible locations range from property near Holiday Inn and the west interchange on U.S. Highway 6, to another on Utah Highway 10 near Murdock Motors in south Price.
The planning director also said he had looked at two sites on Airport Road - one close to Main Street in Price and the other about one-half mile up the road, near Boyd Thayn's Animal Hospital.
A fifth site is located northeast of the intersection of 100 North and 700 East.
Each of those sites has pros and cons, whether because of location, availability of utilities, access or geologic concerns.
Finding a perfect site is not likely.
Commissioner Bill Krompel said that, in his experience, county officials have always been forced to weigh the pros and cons of possible sites and select the location that best fits the county's needs.
"We need to do a site evaluation on the different sites," said the commissioner. He explained that by doing a feasibility study, the county would be more likely to find the best site.
"Part of the goal was to keep the courthouse, if at all possible, as close to town as we can," said Commissioner Michael Milovich.
Milovich indicated that the site near 100 North and 700 East is his preference because of its proximity to the downtown Price area.
However, Milovich added that he has been informed that there are offers on the table to purchase the site and while it is currently on the market, it could be sold at any time.
Because the site has the possibility of exiting the real estate market, Milovich proposed that the county place $10,000 of earnest money on the property.
Doing so would eliminate any possibility of sale before the county can determine whether the site would work.
By entering into an earnest money agreement, the county could tie up the sale of the property until March 20, 2007.
However, in fronting the earnest money, county officials risk losing it.
Burge explained that while escape clauses provide for a refund in certain circumstances, an earnest money agreement could put the county into a position of being forced to purchase the property or lose the earnest money.
"I think we should identify sites that may have some potential for a future courthouse," said Bill Krompel. "I don't think we should favor, at this time, one site or the other."
The commissioner suggested that a professional group should be hired by the county to look at all possible sites and objectively recommend the best site.
Who will comprise the professional group, how to pay for the site review and how long an evaluation will take to complete are all unknown.
Placing earnest money on the 700 East property also faced opposition from members of the public who attended the meeting.
"It sounds to me like the cart's being put before the horse," said Rick Krompel. "I don't know of anyone who looks for property before they even know what they're going to need. I think it's way premature to put an earnest money agreement on a piece of property when no needs have even been established."
Similar concerns were echoed by Ward Pierce.
Pierce added that there are many property owners like himself who own potential sites and would like to have the same consideration.
The size of building, how many levels it will be, how much parking are all considerations.
The design of the courthouse building will depend on a study to determine how much space the county needs and how much it will need in years to come.
Burge pointed out that Price officials are currently looking at the prospect of replacing the city's current government offices.
In the event the county and the city wish to team up, a larger facility will be needed.
"All of these things need to be answered before we even look at buying ground," said Commissioner Krompel.
However, Milovich expressed concern that by waiting, the county may lose the option of buying the 700 East property unless officials enter into an earnest money agreement.
"Well, let it be gone, Mike," responded Bill Krompel. "There's a lot of ground out there close to town. It all needs to be looked at."
Officials discussed the possibility of adding clauses to the earnest money agreement which would allow the county to get its money back more easily, but made no official action to that effect.
Burge said he was uncomfortable putting down earnest money so early in the planning process.
By entering into an earnest money agreement, Burge indicated that the county may be influencing the real estate market.
"I think we're making a mistake by going that direction," said Burge. The commissioner offered the opinion that the government should generally stay away from influencing commercial markets.
In addition, Burge questioned whether an earnest money agreement would influence the commission's decision farther down the road.
At the risk of losing earnest money, county officials could favor the property where it has an agreement in place, according to the commissioner.
"I'm afraid we're losing objectivity if we do this," said Burge.
Though Milovich moved to make a request for proposals and enter into an earnest agreement, the motion died without a second.
All three commissioners agreed that additional study will be necessary to determine a possible site for the courthouse facility.
However, the county officials could not agree on whether to enter into an earnest money agreement.