County Commissioner John Jones explains why the county decided to build a multimillion-dollar facility on 100 North near 700 East.
The transfer of two small "orphan" parcels of land near the proposed site of the building complex that Carbon County plans to build soon had residents, county commissioners and city council members engaged in a heated discussion that centered on the reasons for a new county building.
The Price City Council voted 4-1 in favor of supporting the transfer of the parcels of land on Wednesday evening after the Price City Planning and Zoning Commission made a recommendation to support the transfer with three recommendations. Those recommendations include:
Holding a series of community meetings between Carbon County officials and staff, Price City officials and staff, and concerned community members be completed to receive community input on the proposed project. Price City has agreed to facilitate these meetings and community members in attendance at the public hearing have agreed to participate in the meeting;
The review of the market analysis/social economic impact study detailing the potential local economic and financial impacts (positive or negative) to the public and private sectors based on the new facility and a new location outside of the downtown area;
The review of a study for not choosing the existing property (120 E. Main) and the proposed intended utilization of that property to prevent a large parcel from being dark on Main Street.
During a public hearing session, a handful of residents in the community spoke voicing their disapproval for not only the transfer of the parcels of land but also having the county vacate their current building on Main Street for a new building on 100 North.
"Not only would downtown businesses suffer, but so would the appeal of Main Street," said Angelo Kiahtipes. "It (moving the courthouse) will effectively gut Main Street."
Council member Kathy Hanna-Smith, who cast the lone no vote on the motion supporting the transfer, said there is a need for a new courthouse but not at the expense of leaving a large vacant building on Main Street.
"The building is currently a black hole," Hanna-Smith said "but moving the courthouse off Main Street helps destroy our Main Street appeal."
Piccolo said there would be issues with the new courthouse location, but the city would take the time to work through the issues that come up. While allowing a group of citizens to get up during the public hearing to voice their thoughts, Price City Mayor Joe Piccolo spent time reminding everyone that the transfer of the parcels to the county does not provide them with a building permit for the new county building.
The transfer of the parcels of land, which are located near the area the county has selected for a new building complex, would not affect the county in their push towards putting a new courthouse along 750 East 100 North, according to Piccolo. The council could have voted against the Planning and Zoning commission's recommendation but it would leave the city being responsible for cleaning and clearing out those small strips of land located near the Price Wellington Canal and along 100 North.
"It will just muddy up the lot," Piccolo said of not transferring the parcels to the county. "They (Carbon County) don't need us. They could push us out the door. We can shake hands with the county rather than striking up a fist on this issue."
The public hearing, which went for nearly two hours, also included input from County Commissioners John Jones and Mike Milovich. Jones argued in favor of the city turning over the parcels of land to the county and spent much of his time at the podium trying to inform those in attendance of the work that has been done over the past four years on the new courthouse project. He mentioned that $6 million of grant money for the project is "not money in the bank" and could disappear should the county not utilize it.
"We've been working on this project for the last four-and-a-half years," Jones said, his voice growing louder with each point he made. "We need to be responsible on this and we all need to band together."
Jones mentioned that if the county was to build a new courthouse at the current Main Street location, the total costs for the project could be 30 to 40 percent higher compared to moving over to 100 North.
Milovich said the county has needed a new courthouse for some time and has been working closely on the topic over the past four years. He said there have been numerous hearings and discussions held by the county for the public to participate in over the last few years.
"This new courthouse is not a want," Milovich explained, "it's an absolute need."
County officials have said previously that the current building on Main Street is considered to be too old and dilapidated and one of the main goals for the new proposed building would be to centralize and have all of the county services in one location.
The county also has previously determined that the current offices are no longer adequate. Store rooms have been converted into offices and the electrical system is barely able to handle its current load.
Milovich said the current figures show a new courthouse would cost around $17 million, not $23 million as mentioned by others earlier in the meeting. He noted that every project worked on by the county, including the dog pound, the improvements at the Fairgrounds, the Senior Citizen Center and many others have all been paid for in full.
Before closing the public hearing at the meeting, council member Grady McEvoy said there was a lot of focus on the new county courthouse and its location, but not what would be done with the building.
One of the main suggestions thrown around at the meeting for the current courthouse building is to convert it into a library. Milovich and Jones both supported the idea of the library but Milovich said there are a number of different possibilities that could work.
McEvoy suggested that a number of different entities including the city, county, Carbon School District, USU Eastern and others could come together in some form to figure out some possibilities on what could be done with the current courthouse.
"I'd love to see the new courthouse on Main Street, but the county can choose to build it there (on 100 North)," McEvoy said.