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COULD THE STATE SAVE ON COURT COMPLEX?

Sometime in the near future the state will spend $82.5 million to build a new Salt Lake Court Complex on half a city block just west of the City-County Building.

But could the state do the job a lot cheaper than currently proposed? An audit released Monday by the legislative auditor general says yes."Cost savings may be possible by locating other intended occupants elsewhere and reducing the amount of trial court space," the report states. "It would seem clear that the project's cost could be reduced if the size of the project were reduced."

The audit also agrees with the Utah Judicial Master Plan, which recommended sharing courtrooms by locating adult and juvenile trial courts in the same complex where they can share the same resources "rather than separate facilities dedicated to each court."

A 1989 study by Valentiner Architects proposed a court complex to house 3rd District trial courts, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, as well as the law library and the Office of the Court Administrator.

The audit suggests that some occupants could be housed elsewhere cheaper. The court administrator, for example, could more easily be housed in traditional office space rather than a courts complex. "It is a staff office and requires ordinary office space. Court facility space is more expensive to build per gross square foot than good office space, and less efficient in use," the audit states.

And the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals could consider sharing space at the State Capitol. "The Supreme Court already has offices in the Capitol, and the Appeals Court could fill part of the space expected to be vacated by the Attorney General," according to the audit.

In fact, the state could reduce the projected size of the Salt Lake Courts Complex by 18 percent.

The audit also recommended reauthorizing the Office of the Court Administrator, and suggested clarification of conflict-of-interest rules for court employees. It also considered the rapid growth in the number of employees working for the state court system, but con-cluded the hiring practices were appropriate.