Home away from home for courthouse staff

Platte County clerk, Malcolm Ervin stands behind the counter in the temporary home of the vehicle title and licensing department for the county. While the Platte County courthouse is going through renovations, the courthouse staff will all be housed at 2152 South Street in Wheatland.

WHEATLAND – The Platte County courthouse is to undergo an intense remodel within the next 10 months and rather than work around the construction, the entire courthouse staff has found a temporary home at 2152 South Street, neighboring the Rural Electric Association (REA) building.

According to Platte County clerk Malcolm Ervin who is ramrodding the project, the renovations will take approximately 10 months and they are hoping to make the move back to their permanent home.

“This has been in the works for about five years,” said Ervin. “In 2018 the people of Platte County voted for a specific purpose excise tax; the six-penny sales tax, which allowed us the financial ability to renovate the courthouse.”

The courthouse, which was to be remodeled in phases has changed plans a bit.

“Phase one was limited to the basement,” Ervin said. “We’ve managed to stretch that phase to all three floors. The first step was moving everybody out and then we can start renovating.”

The major exodus from the downtown location was completed last weekend and barring any unforeseen circumstance, the offices that were at the courthouse should be up and running and fully functioning this week.

The only area that has not moved to the South Street location is dispatch which has a temporary location set up directly adjacent to the existing courthouse. This was due to satellite access and so that service would not be interrupted.

“Proximity to the tower was the main reason we kept them near the courthouse,” Ervin said. “The closer to the tower we can keep them, the better signal we have. It would have been ideal to keep them in the courthouse, but that was not possible.”

Phase one of the remodel will begin the week of Oct. 18. Completion is supposed to be August 2022. If this is going to be delayed, Ervin said that the public will be alerted, and also added that no good construction project comes without a hiccup.

“Our other issue is that we are dealing with a 110-year-old building,” Ervin said. “Nothing is plumb or square.”

Kristi Rietz who is also working on coordinating the move and making sure everything runs smoothly also commented on the construction.

“In most of the offices are historic windows,” Rietz said. “They are building around those so that they didn’t have to the frames and the beautiful historic baseboards. It would disrupt the beauty and esthetics that we want to preserve.”

“Phase one is a total basement remodel,” Ervin said. “But then, also HVAC will also be done on floors two and three as well as public restrooms. So, phase one touches all three floors. It’s a total remodel of the basement and a 30% remodel of the other floors.”

The biggest benefit, according to Ervin is better handicap access. There will be a new elevator on the south side of the building and the existing elevator will be eliminated.  The new elevator will be an addition to the building as well as a new stairwell. This can be accessed from inside the courthouse.

Before demo day could begin, moving day had to be completed. After moving everything in just over a week’s time, the temporary home of the Platte County Courthouse will officially be open for business Oct. 12. Every office including the assessor, clerk, treasurer, district and circuit courts that were operating in the courthouse with the exception of dispatch will be operating at the temporary facility.

The building that now houses the five offices of the county used to be a Ford dealership and then it was Wheatland Fire Equipment and most recently was R & R Rig Services. The county will actually be saving money by leasing a building rather than trying to work in the midst of construction.

“We are leasing the building from R & R Management Company while we renovate,” Ervin said. “By us moving out, we will save over $200K on the project. The cost savings greatly exceeded what it cost for us to be in the temporary location.”

There will be two entrances at the temporary location. Both will be on the east side of the building.

“One of the entrances will be for the assessor, clerk, treasurer and district court,” Ervin said. “That will be the first entrance (south door). The other (north door) will be specific to the circuit court. We will also have signage within the building and on the exterior as well to help people navigate where they have to go.”

According to Ervin, the total cost of the remodel and renovation is $4.6 million. Primarily the monies came from taxes and some of it came from the American Rescue Plan and the county general fund that has had money being put away for a number of years.

Sampson Construction Company is the general contractor and Ervin said that a ceiling was set on the price that was guaranteed to have all work done for the price agreed upon.

“We’re negotiating with Sampson a guaranteed maximum,” Ervin said. “So, we can’t go over budget.”

There may be some challenges in moving and in the temporary setup, but there are also advantages.

“Actually, I think the public will like coming here,” Ervin said. “I think it is more accessible, I think our workflow will be more efficient and for me, it’s just an exciting challenge. We get to work around moving out of our main building. It’s like moving out of your house and figuring out how to live somewhere else while there is a home makeover.”

Reitz said that she was excited about the move and the renovations.

“This will be the first time that Malcom’s office and my office are combined,” she said. “Instead of going back and forth, it can now all be done in one office. The treasurer and clerk will be in the same proximity.”

In the renovation, all the areas will be the same size. The creative portion and input is going to come from the workers who are moving back to put their own signature on things.

“How we use the remodeled spaces will be determined as to how the temporary setup goes,” Ervin said. “Also, as far as costs, the utility costs will go way down because of the energy efficient additions. All of our exterior walls are going to be insulated from the inside. So, on the outside you’ll never notice, but on the inside, they will insulate and drywall all exterior walls. Currently we have an R-value of about 1.5 which is nothing. After the construction we are supposed to have an R-value of 13. We will actually be able to retain heat and cold air. We will then have an energy efficient HVAC system whereas now, everything is all electric. We will save long term a lot of money for the county.”