New judicial center may get name of late judge

OLYMPIA — Technically, Olympia has two buildings named City Hall — the old one at 900 Plum Street S.E. and the new one that opened in March at 601 Fourth Ave. E.

But the old one, now being converted into a new judicial center, may soon have a new name. The Olympia City Council will hold a public hearing tonight on a proposal to name the building after the late Olympia Municipal Court Judge Lee Creighton. The council, which has the final say, will meet at 7 p.m. at the new City Hall, 601 Fourth Ave. E.

Olympia Municipal Judge Scott Ahlf, Creighton’s successor, recommended the name change. He cited Creighton’s service spanning two decades, first as city prosecutor, then as judge.

“I think that honoring him by naming the facility after him it just makes sense,” Ahlf said.

Creighton, 47, died of cancer in 2006. He became the city’s first elected Municipal Court judge in 1998, Ahlf said. The year before, the position changed from an appointed position to an elected one. He won a second term in 2002.

Ahlf estimated that Creighton oversaw 100,000 cases either as prosecutor or judge. But in fall 2003, a sharp headache sent him to the emergency room. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He opted not to run for a third term as judge, and Ahlf was elected.

Before Ahlf’s election, he was the prosecutor for the City of Lacey, and became acquainted with Creighton during conferences they attended together.

Ahlf praised Creighton’s “great sense of community. The court meant everything to him. He just worked so well in it, always friendly always courteous and had the utmost integrity.”

The City of Olympia is moving forward on a project to renovate the old City Hall into a full-time judicial center. The city plans to move probation services and the court’s administrative offices into the complex, which dates to 1966. They will join the Olympia Municipal courtroom, which has met in the old Council Chambers for years, and city prosecutors, who remain in the old building.

The city plans to spend up to $300,000 renovating the old structure, said Jay Burney, interim assistant city manager for special projects. Burney said the project will go out for bid at the end of this month or early June, and construction is expected to take place from June to August.

The biggest part of the project is building a wall separating court employees from prosecutors, Burney said. New carpeting and paint, as well as work on the heating and cooling systems, is part of the project.

New signs will also be installed, marking the building’s next chapter as the city’s municipal court complex.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869