Courthouse expansion almost ready for courts

The expansion and renovation of the historic Lincoln County Courthouse is now in the final clean-up stage and will be formally unveiled in an open house on Saturday, Feb. 26.

The work, which necessitated the building be emptied and all offices and courts to relocate to the County Services Building, has been decades in the making. The addition gave both courtrooms jury rooms, relocated the Circuit Court of Judge Glenn Hartley into a new courtroom where the county clerk’s office used to be, created a law library and family court in his old courtroom, gave a secure way of transporting prisoners to and from the building and holding them near the courtrooms and to keep prisoners and juries from coming into contact with the general public in the rotunda.

County Building Maintenance Supervisor Joel Wendt said the construction phase of the project was finished last month and now workers are cleaning up the building and preparing to move benches and other furniture back into offices and courtrooms.

“There are still a few items to be punched on the punch list, but for the most part, the work is done,” he said.

In addition to all the visible additions and changes, the renovations gave the county an opportunity to rewire the building and install new data and video lines throughout the building.

Wendt said that while the judges have had a chance to get a look at the changes, officials from neither the 9th Circuit Court nor the State Historical Society have toured the facility. The 9th Circuit Court has been pushing for Lincoln County to expand the cramped courthouse for years. The Historical Society has been the primary roadblock in the process, shooting down several plans for the expansion until early last year. The architect for the project was Ayers and Associates and the general contractor was Ellis Stone.
The Historical Society has a say because the building is listed on the Registry of Historical Places, but the final say must come from Chief Judge Greg Grau of the 9th Circuit Court.
“The Chief Judge of the Circuit Court has to approve the work before it can be occupied,” Wendt said.
He said he expects officials from both agencies to tour the building in the next week or so.
After the open house, which will include a ribbon cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. in the rotundra, the move back into the building will take place on the first weekend of March. The plan is for the move to be done so as to insure that there is no disruption of court services.
The public open house and tour will be from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. The ribbon cutting ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. in the courthouse rotunda with a welcome and introduction by the Building Committee Chairman E. Richard Simon. Several judicial dignitaries will take part in the ceremony including Chief Judge Greg Grau and Susan Byrnes, Circuit Court Administrator. Invitations have been extended to Justices of the Supreme Court and other Court officials.
Other participants will include Lincoln County Chairman Bob Lussow and Judge Jay Tlusty. Debbe Kinsey of the Merrill Chamber of Commerce and Chamber Ambassadors will join the dignitaries and conclude the ceremony with the official ribbon cutting presentation.

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