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New courthouse taking shape on time and on budget

It’s beginning to look like something
Like a phoenix from the ashes, since early June, the new Gunnison County Courthouse has risen steadily, ascending from naked earth to…

All melodrama aside, the cluster of buildings that will become the new facility is beginning to look like—something. Beams form the foundation for walls, floors and roofs. New gray cinderblocks define the center structure where the historic red bricks once stood. Hardhats hang from rafters and trudge the steel. There are cranes, beeping trucks, hammering, sparking of welders’ arcs—progress. “We’re on track,” said county manager Matthew Birnie. The new facility is expected to be finished in mid-summer of 2015. Plans for the new courthouse called for preserving the original 1881 structure as the centerpiece of the new facility, which was approved for construction last winter. Crews peeled away the outer buildings to expose the middle, vintage, red-brick edifice. But like the walls of Jericho, those old stones crumbled to the ground, prompting a quick change of blueprints. Here’s the official statement released by County Commissioners explaining their decision to let go of the old building: “It was with heavy hearts that we made the decision… As commissioners, our two primary responsibilities are public health and safety, and fiscal responsibility.” “To continue in our restoration efforts of the building at this point would be both fiscally irresponsible and greatly risk the safety of many people. We are planning on using materials from the original building to recreate a structure that will be safe, sound and secure.” “We had feared from the beginning that the building adjacent to (it) was holding up the 1881 building, and it seems that this was true,” explained GE Johnson Construction Co. superintendent Allan Arnason. GE Johnson is the company contracted to build the new facility. “There were some additional architectural costs,” said Gunnison County finance director Linda Neinheiser. “We did have to pay the architects to come up with an alternative plan, but we were able to modify the budget and everything’s gone smoothly since.” County employees have adjusted admirably to their temporary digs, Neinheiser added, many of them working in offices modified for their use at the Gunnison/Crested Butte Regional Airport. “We’re kind of enjoying it,” she said. “It’s something different while we watch the new building go up and anticipate moving into a new home.” She commended the facilities team for doing “a great job” keeping the current offices both workable and comfortable. The County’s Courthouse Project webpage shows a total budget at just over $15 million. The old facility did not meet state security standards for safe transport to and from court for county jail prisoners and those standing trial, prompting a new facility.

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