Garfield County officials ponder move to Midland Center |

Garfield County officials ponder move to Midland Center

John ColsonGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado
Dale Shrull/Post IndependentThe Midland Center is a recently completed building west of Glenwood Meadows on Wulfsohn Road. Garfield County officials are exploring the possibility of using the building for some of its departments.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Garfield County officials are being asked whether a vacant, recently completed building at the western edge of town, known as the Midland Center, would work as a new home for the county clerk and recorder, assessor and treasurer.The county also is looking for a larger meeting room for the Board of County Commissioners itself, with a capacity to seat at least 200 people, instead of the maximum of 90 that can fit into the current commissioners’ meeting room.That, however, apparently is not the highest priority as far as the Midland Center option is concerned.County administrator Ed Green said on Friday that the county is set to buy the building, contingent on performance of “due diligence” to determine whether the building is adequate to the county’s needs.Green declined to name the amount the county has proposed to pay for the property, or what the asking price was.The Board of County Commissioners has been wrestling with the matter of overcrowding at the Garfield County Courthouse for a couple of years, ever since the State of Colorado authorized additional judges in judicial districts around the state, including the Ninth District that covers Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties.Green said earlier this month that the expansion of the Ninth District already has forced the county to move personnel and equipment over to the newer administration building, across Eighth Street from the historic courthouse building, and to county facilities in Rifle.Reportedly, the courts need still more space, meaning the remaining county offices in the historic courthouse will be caught in the squeeze, which prompted the search for new facilities.In addition, employees of the clerk, assessor and treasurer, as well as members of the public, have chafed somewhat over having to submit to the enhanced security checkpoint at the courthouse entrance, which is meant to guarantee the safety of the courtrooms but also affects people who are simply going in to pay their vehicle registration, taxes or other administrative function.”It’s an aggravation,” declared assessor John Gorman earlier this month, although Gorman was not exactly happy about the prospect of moving his office out of the center of town.Both Gorman and treasurer Georgia Chamberlain expressed reservations about the Midland Center proposal in early June, but after a meeting with architect Dean Moffatt on Friday, the two indicated they are more open to the concept now.Green said that the county looked at a half a dozen different possible locations, and considered options that ranged from building a new “justice center” for the courts, which he said would be prohibitively expensive, to buying or erecting a new office building for the three departments. The Midland Center emerged as the best option available, he said.The county and the building’s owners reportedly have agreed on a price, and now the county must decide by early July whether or not to move ahead with the deal or look elsewhere. Green said that it would cost approximately $12 million to construct an entirely new building for the three departments.Moffatt and Sundesign Architects are to be paid up to $18,000, depending on the time spent, to help determine whether the two-story building, originally designed and built for retail purposes, would meet the county’s needs. Moffatt’s task is to factor in terms of public accessibility, coordination of services to the public, and storage of public documents, among other concerns.The meeting brought together the assessor, treasurer and Clerk & Recorder Jean Alberico, in addition to County Commissioner Trsi Houpt and several other county officials.In answer to a question about accessibility, Moffatt told his audience at the Friday meeting that while the building was “not originally designed for full occupancy in an office situation,” it could be adapted to county uses, adding, “We can handle ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] issues quite easily.”Among the issues he urged the officials to think about is the fact that on the first floor, only the northern side has windows. The southern side of the floor essentially is below ground level, and Alberico pointed out that such a space would work well for storage, which all present agreed will be an important consideration.One possible use for some of the 15,000 square foot lower floor, according to the Friday discussion, could be a meeting space for the commissioners that could be rented out to local nonprofits and other groups.Also in the works is the question of whether to install a traffic light on Wulfsohn Road, and the entrance to the building. Green said county planning director Fred Jarman is discussing that matter with City Hall.Moffatt asked the officials at the meeting to fill out a questionnaire he provided, giving details about each department’s needs, space requirements and other minutiae.”The first call should be the people who are in the building most of the time,” he said, as opposed to the needs of outside groups who might want to occasionally use a lower floor meeting space.High on the list also should be the public’s access, officials agreed, including consideration of the fact that the public often needs to visit all three of the departments at the same time.The group of officials will meet again with Moffatt on July

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