Staff Writer | November 25, 2020 1:00 AM
After years of talking about a new building on the Kootenai County government campus, plans are underway to construct a new multi-department legal center between the courthouse and administration building.
"Our prosecuting attorney, our public defender, they're just out of the room," Commissioner Leslie Duncan said. "They're not conducive to being split up, and we need more courtrooms."
While it's still in the early planning stages, the county contracted Lombard Conrad Architects and Longwell Trapp Architects to turn the new attorney center into reality last week.
The county is hoping to design a mixed-use building that can house the public defender's office, prosecuting attorney's office, members of the IT department, and more courtrooms.
Between the courthouse and the administration building, there's just enough space to fit about a 10,000 square foot building, Jones said. However, there is still debate as to whether two properties will be necessary to accommodate staff.
During a meeting with the commissioners, LCA Architects and Longwell Trapp Architects outlined the process they're estimating to follow. Depending on factors like phasing issues, staging, and the extra steps needed to keep adjacent buildings operational, LCA planner Russ Moorehead said the project could take anywhere between 14 to 16 months.
The architects are expecting eight weeks of programming, which will allow them to canvass the groups moving into the new building for their needs and wants.
"We're going to meet all the individual user groups to kind of go through their spaces," LCA planner Ken Gallegos said. "Make sure we review the space analysis, verify with each of the groups and make sure we haven't left anything out so we can narrow down square footage for each department going into this new building."
LCA has designed several legal and administration buildings, Moorehead said, including one of the updates to the Kootenai County Jail and the Ada County Courthouse.
Designs will focus on features like a separate entrance for public defenders, security access, parking, customer flow, and organization of services will focus on the project, Moorehead said.
To better understand employee needs, Gallegos said LCA plans to sit down with all department groups in interactive discussions where employees can physically move concept designs.
Parking is a significant concern for the project. Due to the size of the building and the number of people that will inhabit it, there is a required minimum of parking spaces designated by the county.
LCA Architects intends to include ADA parking underneath the building within the projected designs, county project manager Shawn Riley said. Still, it may have to be juggled with the lot on Garden Street owned by the city of Coeur d'Alene.
"We're certainly counting on that because that was one of our biggest concerns," Moorehead said. "We'll probably have to do some kind of parking study to determine how much you've got over there, how much you can use, and what's your largest demand. How do we handle jury selection day, where are they going to park, and how are they going to access the building after that."
The building's design and construction costs won't be known for several weeks, Moorehead said. It will largely depend on what's necessary for departments, the possibility of two separate buildings, and the general contractor costs. Interviews with department heads should begin Dec. 3, Jones said, and more concrete plans will likely be developed by the turn of the new year.