Court OKS courthouse financing plan

Print Article

SANDPOINT — An end appears in sight in the saga of the Bonner County Courthouse.

First District Judge Benjamin Simpson ruled on Monday that completing the protracted remodeling project is an ordinary and necessary expense, clearing the way for the county to incur indebtedness beyond a single fiscal year.

The Idaho Constitution forbids counties from taking on such debts, but there’s an exception when those costs are for ordinary and necessary expenses, such as maintaining government facilities or bringing them to a serviceable state.

Simpson ruled from the bench following a brief hearing in which no objections were raised and the need to bring the courthouse back online went uncontested.

Phased remodeling of the 100-year-old facility began in 2006, but ran into trouble in 2010, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency required the county to rid the building of asbestos in one fell swoop instead of in phases.

The asbestos remediation greatly increased the cost of the project.

“That essentially spent all of the county’s budgeted funds,” said Stephanie Bonney, a Boise attorney representing the county in its petition for judicial confirmation of financing options to complete the remodel.

Filed in August, the petition asked a district judge to confirm that the renovations were ordinary and necessary. The county also asked the court to rule on whether inter-fund transfers can be used to cover financial shortfalls on projects.

But Simpson declined to rule on the question of inter-fund transfers, leaving only the question of ordinary and necessary.

County officials argued in affidavits that the courts’ temporary location at the Bonner County Administration Building created a number of security challenges in keeping visitors, inmates and court personnel properly segregated.

After reviewing briefs filed in the case and pertinent case law, Simpson ruled that the county met the burden of showing a courthouse is an ordinary expense.

Simpson said the case turned on the question of necessity.

“There is no available alternative within Bonner County to provide an adequate judicial facility,” said Simpson.

The county’s petition seeks confirmation of up to $1.5 million in financing, but commission Chairman Cornel Rasor said it may only need up to $400,000 to complete the project.

The county intends to obtain financing with 2 or 3 percent interest and to pay off the loan within 15 years.

The larger sum was used in court documents because the county was in the process of drawing up the budget when the petition was filed and it was unclear how much they could wring out of the spending plan to defray courthouse expenses, Rasor said.

Rasor said the courthouse could be back in operation in late January or early February — a time frame that’s more solid than ever because there aren’t any construction mysteries sealed behind walls.

Commissioner Mike Nielsen was disappointed the court did not take up the inter-fund transfer issue, which he contends is contrary to state law.

“That was my whole reason for pushing this,” Nielsen said after the hearing.

Rasor said the remodel has been dogged by the misconception that it would have been cheaper to build anew. He said the remodel’s bottom line will be around $6 million and it would have cost upwards of $9 million to acquire property and construct a new facility.

Rasor said there is also a perception that the county gutted the Road & Bridge budget to pay for the courthouse renovation.

“Road & Bridge is fully funded,” he said.

Print Article

Read More News

Jury vetting process determined

July 21, 2017 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press COEUR d’ALENE — As part of a vetting process, 1,000 Kootenai County residents tapped for the jury pool in the trial of Jonathan D. Renfro must complete a 40-page survey before being selected to appea...

Comments

Read More

Murphree named chamber’s top volunteer

July 21, 2017 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee SANDPOINT — Thanks to Michele Murphree, there are gardens at local elementary schools as well as at the Bonner Community Food Center and Early Head Start. Those efforts and a drive to improve childr...

Comments

Read More

Commission seeks sculptures

July 21, 2017 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee SANDPOINT — The Sandpoint Arts Commission is looking for artists to submit their sculptures for consideration For the "Silver Box Project” — a city-wide, on-loan art competition of annually rota...

Comments

Read More

Man goes missing near Clark Fork

July 21, 2017 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee SANDPOINT — The Bonner County Sheriff’s Office is seeking the public’s assistance in locating a man who last seen in the Clark Fork area on July 12. David A. Xanatos, 37, is Caucasian male who is 6 ...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(208) 263-9534
PO Box 159
Sandpoint, ID 83864

©2017 Bonner County Daily Bee Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X