COEUR d'ALENE — The idea of moving the county’s downtown offices to the Kootenai County Fairgrounds — to provide needed room to expand — arose again Monday, but it didn’t gain much momentum.
Rather, the bigger message of the evening appeared to be the need for the county to develop a long-range facilities plan.
"The only way to find a solution is to look at the long term," Steve Meyer, a partner in Parkwood Business Properties, told commissioners and county staff.
"If you look at the long term, the public may not like (what is being planned for), but few can argue against it."
Commissioner Chris Fillios said Meyer donated his own time to work up a valuation estimate of the county's downtown campus — including the Administration Building, old courthouse, Justice Building and Juvenile Detention Center — and arrived at value of $3.027 million.
"It's worth what somebody is willing to pay for it if they use it," Meyer said, referring to the rough estimate.
Commissioners said moving the downtown campus to a site such as the fairgrounds for more staff elbow room has been discussed for a few years, but whether that would pencil out still seems inconclusive.
"Some see it as a viable option, but I am skeptical," Fillios said. "U.S. 95 and Government Way already have traffic issues and if we went out there, it would only exacerbate the issue. I also don't believe there's much of an appetite for a bond."
Commissioner Marc Eberlein added: "There's lots of advantages (to moving), but the dollars aren't there."
Meyer said the close proximity of the campus to Lake Coeur d'Alene, City Park and downtown would make the site attractive for a "mid-rise" residential project, but not for office space.
Meyer encouraged commissioners to adopt an updated long-range facilities plan and work toward investing in it, but also acknowledged doing so can be difficult when new commissioners may come into office every two or four years and there's pressure to keep taxes down.
Shawn Riley, the county's Building and Grounds director, said the county recently addressed the parking issue with the lot across Northwest Boulevard from the campus. However, building space remains a challenge.
"If the state mandates that we need another judge, we'd literally have to take a break room and make it into a chambers," he said.
Riley said he believes a move to the fairgrounds would be best in the "ideal world," but it's more economical to stay put.
"And it is definitely possible to stay here," he said.
The exercise on the idea to move comes after the University of Idaho expressed an interest in the Juvenile Detention Center for expansion earlier this year. But Meyer said showing interest is a far cry from a deal.
"Capital money in higher education is extremely difficult," Meyer said.
The county also recently purchased an office building and former home on Government Way adjacent to the campus for future expansion.
Riley said the old courthouse would not be redeveloped since it is on the National Register of Historic Places.
"It's going to come town to a future board making a decision on where they want to build," Riley said.