There’s a chance that Thurston County’s new courthouse could end up near downtown Olympia, at the current site of the Lee Creighton Justice Center.
Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby offered up the site for consideration in a Sept. 19 letter to the Thurston County Commissioners. The commissioners will discuss the idea at a 9 a.m. meeting Tuesday.
“On behalf of the Olympia City Council, I can share with you that we are very excited about the prospect of a new county courthouse in Olympia,” Selby wrote.
“In the spirit of city-county partnership, the city of Olympia would like to offer the possibility of a joint feasibility study of the city-owned property at Plum (Street Southeast) and Eighth (Avenue Southeast) as a possible new courthouse site.”
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The round building — formerly City Hall — currently houses the city’s jail, municipal court, and other criminal justice related offices. Government officials moved into the building in 1966, after constructing it for just under $1 million. It was touted as a model of good design and creative architecture and space planning, according to The Olympian’s archives. A moat filled with artesian water surrounded the council chambers.
City officials changed the name to the Lee Creighton Justice Center — after a longtime municipal court judge — in 2011, when the city government moved into the current Olympia City Hall on Fourth Avenue.
If the site is picked for a new county courthouse, the building will likely come down, said Olympia City Manager Steve Hall.
Ideally, the site would host buildings with both city and county functions, he said. The city could build a new jail on this site.
“What we have now is pretty old,” Hall said.
The site already has access to utilities, and easy access to Interstate 5, the letter reads.
Thurston County officials have long been hoping to replace the 40-year-old courthouse, located on Lakeridge Drive. Its problems range from poor security to a leaky roof.
A new courthouse would have to be located in Olympia, the county seat.
Building the new facility would likely cost between $175 million and $200 million, Thurston County Manager Ramiro Chavez said in June.
The state government gave Thurston County some financial help during the latest legislative session, passing a law that would allow the county to collect money for the courthouse over a longer period of time.
Constraints on property taxes allow counties only nine years to increase bond levies above a state limit on property tax collections — and voters must approve the taxes. Thurston County carved out an exception with House Bill 1344, signed into law in May, that allows 25 years for the county to increase a bond levy for the courthouse project. The measure was sponsored by Rep. Laurie Dolan, an Olympia Democrat.