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Ogden's new courthouse extolled as a more people-friendly facility

Most people who walk into a courthouse are hurting, Utah State Court Administrator Daniel J. Becker believes.

They're getting divorced. They're embroiled in a lawsuit. They're a crime victim, come to confront their accused perpetrator. Or, they're charged with a crime.That's why the new 2nd District Courthouse in Ogden is designed to be people-friendly, Becker said Monday afternoon at the facility's dedication program.

"Serving the public is what this courthouse and every other one in the state should be about," Becker said. "Most people come to court because they have a problem or they're hurting, they're in pain.

"We need to make the process less frustrating and less intimidating."

The $13 million courthouse is people-oriented and service-oriented, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Zimmerman said, which reflects the mission of Utah's justice system: service to the people who are using the system.

Zimmerman, a self-professed lover of old buildings, said he was reluctant a decade ago when it became apparent that the old building the courts shared with Ogden City and Weber County government offices was inadequate.

"The old building was charming but obsolete," Zimmerman said of the facility on Washington Boulevard. "I'm a fan of old buildings and I favored any plan that would keep the courts in that building.

"But it became apparent after a study that best use of resources was to put them into a new building and renovate the old one for continued use as city and county offices," Zimmerman said.

The result is the new court building on Grant Avenue, two blocks from the old Ogden Municipal Building and just off Ogden's historic 25th Street.

"Twenty-fifth Street is still close enough to offer solace to those unhappy with the outcome of their court case," Zimmerman joked of the legendary home of Ogden's bars and red-light district.

That street was a prime source of entertainment for teenagers growing up in Ogden, as did Lt. Gov. Olene Walker, who noted they used to pile in their cars and park there to watch the antics of the 25th Street patrons.

The new building continues the effort that Ogden has made to turn its downtown into a viable historic and commercial center, Walker noted in her remarks.

Zimmerman said the building's cost of $125 per square foot is efficient and economical. Court buildings nationally cost around $180 to $185 per square foot, Zimmerman said after the dedication ceremony, with federal facilities costing even more.

The Scott M. Matheson Court Building currently under construction in Salt Lake City will run about $10 a square foot less than the Ogden facility, Zimmerman said, describing it as more austere.

The 91,000-square-foot Ogden facility has 10 finished courtrooms and two more shelled in for future use. It has separate circulation areas for the public, judicial staff and prisoners as part of its security system.

The courtrooms are equipped with advanced electronic features, including a computerized records and information system, video trial recording and a video arraignment system.

It includes secure victim and witness waiting areas outside courtrooms and private attorney-client conference rooms.