La Plata County looks at its building needs

Three plans give options for additional space

La Plata County Commissioners on Tuesday got a first look at three different proposals to satisfy the county’s facility needs during the next 20 years.

The various facility master plans, presented by the Grand Junction-based Blythe Group + co., mapped out different moving, renovation and construction options that would affect nearly every county department and most county buildings downtown and in Bodo Industrial Park.

The goal was to present different ways to accommodate county departments’ growing space needs, the possibility of a lease with the federal government for a courtroom and future demand on county services. The proposals also aim to decrease the amount of space the county leases, center more services downtown and improve customer access and downtown parking.

“We have a whole lot of challenges, but feel we have a lot of opportunities as well,” Assistant County Manager Joanne Spina said. The 6th Judicial District Court, the Human Services Department and the district attorney’s office are just a few of the entities in urgent need of extra space, she said.

One option proposes building a new $34 million justice center next to the detention center in Bodo Industrial Park and constructing a new parking structure on East Second Avenue, across from La Plata County Courthouse. The structure would sit on two county-owned lots near the East Second Avenue and 11th Street.

County services, including planning, human services and the county attorney would locate in the Courthouse and the county commissioners and administration would move to the Vectra Bank building on the northwest corner of East Second Avenue and 11th Street. Commissioners approved the $2.7 million purchase of the bank property in December.

The $67.5 million project would allow the county to sell or repurpose the Old Main Post Office and avoid leasing space in the Crossroads Building for the county attorney’s office.

A second option envisions demolishing the Vectra Bank building and constructing a new justice center in its place. The plan proposes building a $7 million dual parking structure and office space on East Second Avenue across from the Courthouse that would house administration offices while concentrating other county services in the Courthouse.

The project would cost $72 million.

A third option, the cheapest of the three, would not build a new justice center and instead renovate the Courthouse to accommodate county, district and federal court operations and the county attorney. Two three-story additions would be added to the Courthouse. The $56.6 million plan also includes the construction of a dual parking structure and office space that would house many county services including the planning, human services and building departments.

Administration, the county commissioners and the finance department would occupy the existing Vectra Bank building and the district attorney, human resources and the treasurer would use the Old Main Post Office.

County Commissioner Kellie Hotter said she preferred the third option, but said she would like to see if the county could eliminate its need for the Old Main Post Office. The historic building on Main Avenue would be better used for retail or commercial businesses, she said.

All the plans included construction of a new building in Bodo Park to house the election department and the Department of Motor Vehicles as well as a public-safety in addition to the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office. They also include provisions for a federal courtroom to occupy part of the Courthouse, a situation contingent upon commissioners approving a 10-year lease with the Federal General Services Administration.

The county started developing a master facilities plan in March. Most of the proposed construction and renovation projects would be complete in the next three to five years.

The county hasn’t decided whether it will finance the projects through a voter-approved bond measure, certificates of participation or its own revenue.

ecowan@durangoherald.com

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