After 57 years of use, the Carbon County Courthouse will soon be demolished. Though nothing has been set in stone, it is anticipated that construction for a new two-story building will begin spring of 2016. The new building will house the Seventh District Court.
During a recent tour of the courthouse, commissioner Jae Potter explained its uses as well as challenges while showing different rooms that have been retrofitted for uses other than their original purpose.
The Old Building
The courthouse was built in 1958 during the Cold War. Originally designed as a fallout shelter, most of the walls are made from cement. Cement walls were also used to fit bars into place since the building was once used as the sheriff’s office with several jail cells on two different floors.
Since space was limited in the building, closets were converted to offices, cells converted to closets and much of the basement converted to a legal library. Though the cells in the main jail haven’t been used to house inmates for years, the locking mechanisms still works. Resembling a fire hose dispenser, the control panel is operated by throwing a lever and turning a wheel to open or close a cell door.
The basement still houses a large legal library with all the media in print as well as clerk’s records. Concerning the materials, Potter posed the question “What do you do with all this stuff, especially in this digital age? Does it have historical value?”
Concerning certain records Seth Oveson, the county clerk, explained that the county is required to keep records for a certain amount of time before they can be disposed of, so many of the records will still have to be stored.
Potter explained that the nicest room in the building was shared by the Justice Court and the Carbon County Commission. The commission chambers are no longer in use since the Justice Court has moved and the commission began holding their meetings in the new county building June 3.
Though the features of the building were top of the line in the 50s, it is time for an upgrade. The courthouse has single pane windows, two-prong electrical outlets, mold in the attic and asbestos tape on the pipes. Though the original furnace was coal, the building is now equipped with a gas furnace. The heating and cooling system in the building did function, but it functioned inefficiently. Some parts of the building had to be heated in the summer and cooled in the winter.
The most significant room in the old building was the conference room. The room was used for meetings with business representatives considering expansion to Carbon County. The conference room leaves the wrong impression about Carbon County but “the new building puts our best foot forward for new businesses,” said Potter.
It would have cost the same amount to refurbish the old building as it did to construct the new building.
The New Building
The cost to build the new courthouse was $18 million. The funding came from the Community Impact Board in three forms: six million in a free grant, six million in a 0% interest loan and six million in a 2.5% interest loan. The new building is projected to last 75 years.
Before deciding to move forward with the new building, commissioner Potter studied the topic of where the money should be spent for a year. The new building leaves a better impression for businesses who want to come to the area as it has a nice meeting place. This will give Carbon County a better chance at expanding and offering citizens more services, Potter explained. The new building also consolidates departments from three buildings into one. All moving departments are scheduled to have moved into the new building by June 17th.
The fiberglass coal miner, currently at the north entrance of the old courthouse, will be moved to the new building, accompanied by a new stand. The miner statue was created by James L. Young in July 1961 as his master’s project. Young died in December of 2008. Young’s wife, Patti, still lives in Price.