Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Roof repairs could leave county office-less

20 employees to be displaced this summer


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Blaine County staffers say the roof of the Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey, above, is in desperate need of replacement. But plans to replace it will leave 20 employees without offices for months, and limit public access. Photo by Willy Cook

About 20 county employees will be displaced from their offices this summer, as an extensive roof reconstruction will make working in the historic Blaine County courthouse nearly impossible.

Char Nelson, Blaine County director of operations, said during a public meeting Tuesday that the roof on the county courthouse needs to be replaced this year to fix problems with snow load, damaged masonry and dry rot.

The roof sheds snow straight onto the roof of the payroll office, which is in an addition to the building, and doesn’t shed snow in other places due to more additions to the building, placing a load on the roof that it was not designed to withstand. The project, which could cost up to $800,000, will be funded through the county’s capital improvements fund.

The replacement will take three to four months. Nelson said the county commissioners, county administrator, commissioners’ assistant and employees in the clerk’s office, the recorder’s office, payroll, elections and the operations office will need to move for the project’s duration.

“It’s a real headache to do this project,” she said. “[But] it’s a historic building, and it’s part of Blaine County, and we have a responsibility to keep it for future generations.”

The roof has only been replaced once in county courthouse history—in 1962, which Nelson said makes the roof older than County Commissioner Angenie McCleary.

“It’s a lot older than me, just so everyone is clear,” McCleary said with a laugh.

Nelson said a few considerations have kept the county from undertaking the roof project until this year—mostly funding, she said, but also the hassle of moving employees and retaining public access to historical records and public meetings.

Teresa Espedal, the county’s chief probation officer, told the commissioners that her office could move from the Blaine County annex building, which is across the street from the courthouse, to the McBride Building on the corner of First and Walnut streets in Hailey.

The McBride Building houses the Blaine County 4-H program and the University of Idaho Blaine County Extension Office, which Nelson said could be moved to other county facilities to make room for the Probation Department.

The Probation Department’s move would then make room for the three county commissioners, plus the county administrator and assistant in the annex building.

Commissioner Larry Schoen said the annex building also contains a public conference room on the first floor that could be used for public meetings, and that the move could be a good short-term solution.

“I have said that a folding table and a tin cup for pens and pencils and an Internet connection is all I really need,” he said. “But we need to be practical.”

Several staff members said employees from the clerk’s and recorder’s offices could be moved into mobile office units on courthouse property. Nelson said historical records would remain in the courthouse vault, with set hours for members of the public to request documents.

County Administrator Derek Voss said the project is likely to begin June 1, after the county has completed the May special election for a levy to restore the Wood River Trails bike path. 

Nelson said the project would likely be completed in September, meaning the commissioners will be conducting budget hearings in a different location than usual.

Kate Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com

 

 




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