Roof, technology upgrades quickly push Pitkin courthouse project over budget
The final stage of a $5 million renovation to the Pitkin County Courthouse that just began last month is $250,000 over budget.
Jodi Smith, the county’s facilities director, broke the news to Pitkin County commissioners earlier this week that the estimate for a new roof came in at $400,000 instead of the budgeted $300,000 and technology upgrades for the two second-floor courtrooms would be an extra $150,000.
“You know, we took on this project and this is our reality,” Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury said. “And that roof, to me, is a priority, so I’m not surprised it came in that high.”
The county began renovations to the historic building, built in 1880, in September 2019 and completed upgrades to the basement and first floor in April 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic shut it down until the health emergency diminished. The final stage concentrating on the second floor began again in March and is expected to last until Sept. 30 at the earliest.
Besides the $5 million to renovate the building, Pitkin County is also paying almost $24,000 a month to rent most of the Armory Building — also known as the former Aspen City Hall — as a temporary location for the courts and court-related services.
In addition to modifying both the District Courtroom and the County Courtroom for modern technology, court security officers asked for a holding cell and bathroom on the second floor for prisoners awaiting court appearances, Smith said. That amounted to a “significant change” and is included in the extra $150,000, she said.
The extra $100,000 for the roof is mainly for the cost of materials and scaffolding necessary for the project, Smith said.
Board Chairwoman Patti Clapper said she was “concerned” about the extra $250,000 coming from the county’s general fund and commissioners discussed using $230,000 in project contingency funds to pay for the over-budget items. However, that would have exhausted that fund almost immediately after the final phase of the project began, and board members instead decided to keep the contingency funds available for other unforeseen items likely to come up during the next several months of renovation and pay for the $250,000 out of the general fund.
“It’s an old building and we knew we were going to find (unbudgeted) stuff (that needs fixing),” Clapper said.
On Monday night, the City Council listened to ideas for each old building. However, nothing laid out what the community space would actually entail — only aspirations and gathered community comment.