Courthouse funding obtained

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SANDPOINT — Bonner County commissioners issued a promissory note Tuesday for what’s hoped to be the last slug of financing needed to complete the overhaul of the courthouse.

The note enables a $600,000 loan from Mountain West Bank. The note matures in 10 years, bears an annual interest rate of 2.85 percent and can be paid off early without penalty.

The Idaho Constitution bars counties from incurring indebtedness beyond a single fiscal year, although the county argued the courthouse work was exempt from the prohibition because the facility was a necessary and ordinary expense.

First District Judge Benjamin Simpson agreed during judicial confirmation proceedings last year.

The county initially planned on capping the loan at $400,000, but subsequently elevated the sum to $600,000 in order to improve the building’s surveillance system, soundproofing and customer service desks.

The change orders were requested after courts and clerks staff did a walk-through of the building to make sure it suited their needs.

Nielsen the project’s last change order amounted to $179,000.

“I don’t want to take any more than we need, but I want to make sure that we’ve got enough,” said Commissioner Mike Nielsen, the board’s project liaison.

A subsequent loan request would add significant administrative costs, Nielsen said.

The remodel odyssey began about 19 months ago, when the county began a phased approach to the overhaul. But concerns about asbestos in the building forced the county to collapse the phases into a single project that cost more than $6 million and scattered court staff across several locations during construction.

Although there have been numerous projected reopening dates, Nielsen remains confident there is light at the end of the courthouse tunnel.

“And it’s not a train,” he said.

The project is tracking toward a June 19 reopening date.

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