The Slope County Commission Tuesday held off a decision about replacing its nearly century-old county courthouse until its 10 a.m. Aug. 6 meeting.
County Commissioner Mike Teske said they might pay for a $3 million new facility from interest the county earns from oil properties. “It won’t come from tax money,” he said.
The existing courthouse, used since 1914, is the last wood frame courthouse in the state. Some 20 people attended this week’s public hearing. Teske said comments at the hearing were a mix of sentiment about the old building and acknowledgment that the county has new space and safety needs.
Al Fitterer of Mandan has designed a new courthouse proposal —a 12,500-square-foot facility. It would be east of the existing Slope County Courthouse — which measures about 8,000 square feet.
Fitterer’s new design will blend pieces of the old wood courthouse to the new building when possible — like some doors.
“We want to make sure that we plan ahead for future growth,” Teske said. He said the draft plan calls for more room for deputies, office space , more security and more safety.
“The courthouse we have now has no fire exit,” Teske said The second floor of the courthouse is not used much any more because of its condition. It does not meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards because people had to climb a stairway to reach it. “We have had to use it for an overflow of landmen (for their mineral rights research),” Teske said. That also raises security problems when county officials cannot directly supervise documents beings used.
Repairs and additions have been pieced together over the years, but are no longer feasible, Teske said. The problems grow with with the building over time. “We’ve got issues with carpeting, paint with lead, asbestos, plumbing and electrical work,” he said.
Employees also lack privacy during their lunch hour when visitors come in, he said.
“A long time ago, we looked at adding an elevator, but it would have cost $300,000 back then,” Teske said.
If the three county commissioners approve building the new courthouse, bids would be advertised this fall and dirt work could start before snowfall, according to Teske. A new courthouse could be completed by December 2014 or early 2015.
“We have no solid plans yet about what we will do with the existing facility,” he said.