Board Approves $60k In Additional Costs For Courtroom Upgrades

(Gillette, Wyo.) Last May, a construction budget of $195,000 was approved by the Campbell County Board of Commissioners for audio and visual renovations to two district courtrooms, and minor upgrades to a third that was built about 10 years ago. "Our sound system setup here is from the disco era," said District Court Judge Michael Deegan. The project was initially to be completed in two phases. A second phase would install advanced technology in most of the three courtrooms at a later date. But phase one was already $30,000 over budget. So architects at Schutz Foss took a second look at the A/V consultant's budget and found that both phases could be completed at one time for an additional $33,000. On Tuesday, Clark Melinkovich and Judge Deegan appealed to the board to reconsider the requirements for the renovations. The "annotation" system being designed for all three courtrooms is part of a technology package that gives juries, witnesses, and counselors a better view of evidence presented during a trial. In particular, a touchscreen feature can allow a witness to mark a map or photo of an exhibit with their own notations, which can be saved later for jury review. "When we have a witness testify and they are trying to draw a diagram, it will show up on monitors for everyone. Then we can decided to publish or not publish to the jury as they see fit," explained Judge Deegan. "It's a very efficient high-tech method of dealing with exhibits." The board was presented with three options: 1. Continue work as originally intended, with the special courtroom tech not being installed. Work would still be $30,000 over budget. 2. Construct both phases at once, with everything installed at once. The cost for this would be $63,000 over budget. 3. Don't install the new tech, and also eliminate some of the proposed new lighting and controls for one of the bigger courtrooms. This is the cheapest option, but still puts the project $12,000 over budget. Melinkovich pointed out that an initial lack of bidders for the renovation was the reason they were over budget in the first place. Not enough competition for the construction meant they had to take the lowest bidder, which was still more than they'd allotted at the start. Commissioner Shober proposed the board support option 3, to reduce overall costs, but the board voted 4-1 instead for Option 2, which Shober strongly objected to. Most board members explained that with no idea where the economy would be at in the future, it was better to take the approximately $77,000 in state grant funds available for upgrades now, and get everything finished at once. The district judges were delighted with the outcome, as they'd preferred Option 2 all along. "We're very happy the commissioners approved the project as a whole," said Judge Deegan. "They've been very good to us." #county17 #news -- *Brenda Kirk* Community Maven for | 614.940.7121 Twitter | Instagram | Facebook PitchEngine™ | *Connecting Communities* | Twitter | Facebook