Piute County will get a new courthouse, but officials won't be allowed to raze the present building, one of the oldest and most picturesque in the state.
That's a stipulation in conjunction with a $1 million grant and $200,000 loan that have been approved by the Utah Community Impact Board.It would cost more to remodel the existing building to meet safety codes than to build a new courthouse, according to County Commissioner Don Julander. It was estimated that renovation would cost upwards of $3 million.
The county is looking at avenues of revenue to come up with the $650,000 supplement to the $1.2 million CIB funding needed to build a new courthouse. A Provo architect conducted a study of the building several months ago and recommended a new courthouse be built at a different site.
"The Piute Courthouse that houses the district, circuit and juvenile courts has many code violations, i.e., handicap access, fire escape, and electrical wiring," Kevin Madson of Sandstrom & Madson Inc. wrote in a report to the county commission. "Many basic elements of court security cannot be addressed due to the constraints of the current facility."
Substantial amounts of money have been expended through the years to upgrade the courthouse, but it still isn't in compliance with safety codes or the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Electrical wiring, plumbing and heating are outdated, lighting is inadequate and the building has gone through some settling and cracking because of earthquake activity.
It was damaged by fire in 1944 and an earthquake in 1967.
The building's latest face lift was in 1985 and cost $11,050. Bricks were revitalized with red paint, mortar was restored and the woodwork was trimmed in light gray.
Situated adjacent to U.S. 89 in Junction, the courthouse was built in 1903 at a cost of $17,670. It is prominent on the landscape because of its attractive turn-of-the-century architecture.
Inside, it has a unique judge's bench that was built by hand in the courtroom by a pioneer family. The top has 61 half-inch strips of inlaid wood and its base is decorated with six hand-carved panels.
The Piute Courthouse is on the state and national registers of historic places.
The impact board stipulated that the building is to be sold but emphasized it is not to be torn down or significantly changed.
Officials are negotiating the old courthouse's sale for use as a bed-and-breakfast. Maintaining its historic character is a prerequisite of the sale, however.
Julander said the Piute School District has donated property adjacent to Piute High School as a site for a new courthouse. But Piute County's 1,200 residents reportedly are divided as to whether the old courthouse should be remodeled or replaced with a new building.