Law and justice renovations set

t County plans capital improvements in midst of budget cuts.

Even as Kitsap County struggles to stretch its budget to cover expenses, it has not closed the door on new capital facilities that will be constructed as soon as economic conditions improve.

At the forefront is the courthouse/justice center, which was vacated in part with the construction of the new administration building in 2006.

It will begin another upgrade cycle in 2009, with possible major renovations the following year.

Special Projects Manager Brian Lyman said this week the building needs these renovations in order to accommodate law and justice needs, but these cannot be accomplished until the building is brought up to code and a fire prevention system is installed.

About $650,000 has been allocated in the 2009 budget, and $3.3 million in 2010.

Proposed renovations include new courtrooms and facilities for the Prosecutor’s Office.

The building was first constructed in 1935, with renovations completed in 1947, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1974 and 1978.

After the construction of the new jail in 2002, there emerged a plan to build a new law and justice center in back of the current building, then knock down the building and build an open space.

Once projected for 2012 this project is not likely to start for another 15 years, Lyman said.

While a new sprinkler system is needed to begin any significant upgrades Lyman said the current building is not unsafe.

“It is actually much safer today than three years ago when there were more departments in that building,” he said. “And moving the restaurant out of the basement this fall also decreased the fire hazard.”

“This is our plan for the foreseeable future,” said Administrative Services Director Shaun Gabriel. “If we are still under the same economic conditions in 2009 we will stick to that plan, otherwise it will be amended.”

The county commissioners approved the plan, but with some reluctance.

“The good news is that we will be able to start funding some projects in order to make the courthouse a safer place to work,” said North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer. “The bad news is that we still have several important projects that are competing with each other.”

South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel said she accepted modern financial realities, but had hoped it could have been done a little differently.

“I wish that we could have diverted some of the money that will be used to establish a District Court office in Poulsbo back to courthouse improvements,” she said. “It would be a little more inconvenient for some people in Poulsbo, but it would have added $1 back into the fund and streamlined county operations.”

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