Deja vu all over again -
1955: Old county building crumbling, new one needed, controversy over proposed location
To those that may have lived in the area and are old enough to remember it, the current feelings amongst some in the community about building a new Carbon County Courthouse in a different place than where it stands today is nothing new. In 1955, just two years before the present courthouse's construction commenced, voters in the area rejected a bond to build it, replacing the old structure which had been built in the early 1900s.
However, it wasn't the first time that the county had looked at constructing a new courthouse building. In 1946 the county purchased a piece of ground (where the USU Eastern Burtenshaw dorms are now located) with plans to build a new courthouse there. At the time the cry came down from citizens from the area around where it would be located as well as throughout the county that they did not think that was an appropriate spot for a new facility. There wasn't much of a struggle, however, because the thought was for the future. At that time the 1909 courthouse was still adequate for the needs of the county.
"...at that time the issue of whether or not a new building was needed, along with the question of as to where it would be located, brought the whole matter up against an insurmountable mindset and the matter was pretty well forgotten until more recently," reported the Sun Advocate on Nov. 10, 1955. The paper went on to report that the Parkdale property that had been purchased "...aroused a series of protests which almost nullified any argument for a new building and there the matter rested until several months ago."
The difference was that by the mid-1950s the old structure was deteriorating badly. It was leaking in various places. It was cold in the winter and hot in the summer. It was not big enough to accommodate the growth of government that had blossomed during the population boom that was taking place in those years. On top of that in August of that year the ceiling in the county surveyors office collapsed raining wall board and concrete on the desks of county workers, who had just left the room a couple of minutes before. It proved either renovation or new construction was needed.
So the county fathers looked to build a new building, and they didn't want to move out of the old one before the new one was done. They still had the Parkdale property, but decided after the problems in the 1940s with thoughts of trying to get a bond passed to build it there, they would be no more successful a decade later. Finally the Sun Advocate reported in the fall that John Redd, who owned an automobile dealership in Price, offered to sell a piece of property on 100 North and Carbon Avenue to the county for the facility. Others argued with the idea of purchasing that piece of property because they thought that the new building should be built where the old one was located.
"The commissioners, upon the counsel of the architect, maintain that it would be too costly to provide temporary quarters for the county offices while the new building is under construction, and that it would be impossible to build a new structure around the old building and conduct county business without interruption in the process," reported the paper in November.
So a $370,000 bond was put to a vote on Nov. 15. The money was to be used to supplement $211,000 that the county already had on hand to build the new structure.
However, the voters didn't see eye-to-eye with the county fathers. In a very light turnout, citizens rejected the bond 596-515.
"It is estimated that only about an eighth of the eligible taxpaying voters in the county had interest enough in this important issue to turn out and cast their ballots," the Sun Advocate scolded citizens on Nov. 17. "The vote was not proportionately heavy in any of the county's 29 precincts."
It was the first time that voters had ever turned down a county bond since the county was formed. Officials were shocked.
"The consensus of opinion seems to be that the bond itself was not defeated," stated the paper that day. "...but rather the vote was against the proposed location of the new building."
The two arguments in the election against construction were a combination location and the fact that many felt Redd wanted too much for the property on 100 North.
The next week, when the county commission met, they were in a quandary as to what to do. All technical advise had said they should move the location and not repair the building that was already standing. But it was obvious most people understood the need for a new building, but not somewhere else.
What could they do? For the next six months they stewed about it and at the same time held meetings with various citizen groups. They came away with a plan that they knew could get approved by voters for the same amount of money, but with the change in that the new courthouse would go where the old one stood. During the time of construction they formulated a plan to put the county offices in the Price City Hall across the street. It was something they had not considered originally.
On June 12, 1956, the voters approved nearly the same bond with the location of the new building being the only major change. Again turnout was light with only 731 votes cast this time. However only 164 of those votes opposed the bond.
In early 1957, county workers moved out, and demolition of the grand old courthouse began. And then on that site rose the new building, the one in evidence today.
The one that is in the throws of controversy once again.