Early last Tuesday morning, Crook County officials gathered to witness a major step toward construction of a new criminal justice center.
Bright orange backhoes methodically dug into the east end of the large turquoise and white brick structure that has housed everything from a bowling alley to a thrift store, the walls pulled down by metal claws.
"We are excited to see this project moving forward," Crook County Judge Seth Crawford said, looking on at the demolition work.
Now that the structure that occupied the city block between West First and Northwest Second Street and Northwest Beaver and Claypool Street is gone, an empty expanse of space is ready for a new and long-awaited justice center.
Crook County voters approved a $35 million bond measure this past November that paved the way for construction of the justice center, which will house the circuit court system and the district attorney's office, both of which are currently located in the Crook County Courthouse.
The building, like the courthouse, will stand three stories tall but its proposed 68,850 square feet would nearly triple the approximately 23,000 square feet of space currently available for criminal justice services at the courthouse.
Each floor will feature a courtroom of at least 10,000 square feet in size. The first floor will house the Crook County Sheriff's Office and the County Juvenile Department. The District Attorney's Office and Victim's Advocate office will occupy the second floor and public defense will be housed on the third floor.
Before walls can get built for the new justice center, a substantial of amount of ground work will be necessary, which Commissioner Brian Barney said will last throughout the summer months. That work will start with removal of the sewer that is beneath the alley. Then, all of the ground on the site will be stabilized, compaction tested and prepared for geopiers, which are used to reinforce the ground beneath the building. They will be installed toward the end of June or in early July.
"There is engineering and things to do on that and then they will be surveyed and marked out," Barney said.
Geopiers were necessary when building the local jail, but the need for them was not anticipated and slowed construction of that facility. This time, the need for geopiers is not a surprise.
"We are ahead of the game on that one," Barney remarked.
The county soon plans to approve the first of several funding packages that will enable work to move forward not only on the geopiers but underground plumbing, electrical conduit and other site work.
"We have kind of been pushing so we can get a lot of this earth work done during the summer, rather than in the winter," Barney explained.
The anticipated timeframe for completion of the facility is January 2024, which is 19 months away, but county officials are pleased to pass another milestone along the way.
"Every step forward in things like this is a joyous time, because there is something happening," Barney concluded.
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