County to unveil facilities plan

Recommended improvements total more than $36 million

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Makeover is an understatement.

NAC Architecture presented a final draft of a facilities master plan to the Kootenai County commissioners on Friday, which called for a county infrastructure overhaul, including a new justice facility, a 6-story parking garage and an expanded administration building.

NAC's entire recommended improvements total more than $36 million.

The three elected officials said they have yet to determine which improvements they will pursue, or how soon.

"It's doable, but it's looking ahead," said Commissioner Dan Green after the presentation. "Instead of being reactive, it's being proactive. For 20 years in the future."

The next step, they agreed, is rolling out the presentation at a public meeting, before they vote on adopting the plan.

"We're not building this tomorrow," Commissioner Todd Tondee emphasized.

The commissioners have pursued a facilities master plan to analyze how to address growth demands and inefficiencies at current county facilities.

The overarching cost-savings goal, they have said, is to consolidate operations on the county's main campus, bordered by Garden Avenue, Northwest Boulevard and Government Way.

On Friday, Steve McNutt, principle architect with the Spokane-based NAC Architecture, took the officials through an analysis of current facility issues.

He described that the county courthouse and justice building, both on Garden Avenue, face growth pressures but have no room to expand.

The courthouse can't accommodate two more state-mandated courtrooms and support space.

The Juvenile Justice Center, the historic building on Fourth Street the county uses, isn't compatible with modern purposes, lacks parking and is remote from other justice buildings.

The public defender's building on Northwest Boulevard also suffers from inadequate space, McNutt said. The hold structure by the courthouse leaves prisoners exposed outside during courtroom delivery.

Even the county administration building on Government Way hurts for parking, office space and security safeguards, he said.

"It's 15 years old, and it was a tight fit for all departments when you moved in," McNutt said.

The facilities plan offers solutions, McNutt said, though they don't come cheap.

Topping the list would be a new 6-story justice building between the courthouse and current justice building, at a cost of $20.1 million.

The facility would absorb the JJC, the public defender's office and court hold. It would add enough courtrooms to meet the state mandate. It would also include a $187,000 elevator.

Two skyways, $750,000 each, would link the new building to the courthouse and the administration building.

"By linking them all together, it becomes a hub of all justice operations," McNutt said, adding that there would be a central screened entrance for the justice facilities.

A county analysis projected the justice consolidation would save $427,446.

McNutt also rolled out two parking garage options.

A six-story structure with a south deck on Northwest Boulevard would cost $10 million, and raise the total campus parking spaces from 397 to 805.

"The master plan suggests 800 (spaces) are needed," McNutt said.

A narrower, 8-story structure would cost $1.9 million less, and provide 769 total spaces.

The plan also calls for $3.3 million in improvements for the county administration building.

That would include building out the roof for more office space. The bottom floor would also be remodeled for a more expansive lobby with a single screened entrance.

A new Building and Grounds structure would also be built off Garden Avenue for roughly $1 million, instead of using a rented facility.

McNutt acknowledged the commissioners are already pursuing a new Building and Grounds facility, though.

He added that an alternative plan to consolidate justice operations at the sheriff's department campus would cost a total $38 million.

Tondee said the recommended improvements would have to be funded by a bond.

That's why it's "clearly important to get word out" and gather public input, he said.

Commissioner Jai Nelson said the commissioners need to address the county's parking and facility issues.

"We would be remiss if we didn't digest this and make some decisions. Otherwise we'll put future boards in the same predicament," she said. "The county will continue to grow, and we don't have options."

About the facilities master plan

NAC Architecture's final draft of the Kootenai County facilities master plan includes:

New justice building: $20.1 million

Six-story parking garage: $10 million

New Building and Grounds facility: $1 million

Two skyways: $750,000 each

Justice Building elevator: $187,000

Build-out of administration building roof: $3.3 million

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