Justice Center will cost $24 million | VailDaily.com

Justice Center will cost $24 million

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” A 35,000-square-foot expansion of the county’s Justice Center will cost $24 million, $4 million more than originally planned.

County commissioners had planned to expand the Sheriff’s Office, courts, jail and district attorney’s office for $20 million. However, county staff said the less expensive option would be a bare-bones version without some necessary improvements.

“It’d be missing a lot of things that a justice center building needs, such as landscaping, outside treatment and heating and cooling systems that don’t have much life left in them,” County Manager Bruce Baumgartner said.

The first versions of the expansion last year cost about $50 million, but the county opted for a scaled-down expansion after a survey showed tax payers would not support a tax to fund the project.

But the sheriff and judges have said the current 55,000 square-foot building is grossly inadequate. Office space is cramped, the jail is at maximum capacity, and there are five judicial officers sharing space made for two, they said.

Designs for the expansion will add more office space for the Sheriff’s Office, more courtrooms, a jury room, two new judges chambers, and a bigger jail. The jail expansion will have 32 to 36 more inmate beds, providing space for the overflowing jail.

The Sheriff’s Office regularly has to pay to house about 20 inmates at other counties because of lack of space, Baumgartner said.

The jail expansion should suffice for at least six to eight years, and the plans include options for future expansion, he said.

“The sheriff has told me that he thinks he’ll fill that (new) space up immediately,” County Commissioner Peter Runyon said.

The budget has $1 million for renewable energy systems. Planners are not sure about specific plans, said County Construction Manager Rick Ullom, but the county is considering solar energy, geothermal heating, and local, renewable building materials.

The exterior of the now largely-gray building will also get some aesthetic improvements.

“We want to make it look better, too. We want to make it something Eagle County can be proud of,” Ullom said.

The contractor hired for the project is FCI Constructors, Inc,, a company based in Grand Junction. The county will also work with a Seattle architecture firm that specializes in courts and probation projects.

The next step will be applying for a building permit from the town of Eagle, and the project is expected to break ground at the end of October.

Commissioners said they also want to consider the community impacts of the project.

The building company should use local subcontractors when possible, and if not, the county wants to make sure they are housing their employees properly, said commissioner Sara Fisher.

Staff writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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