It’s no secret the Teton County Courthouse could use some major upgrades, but without a ton of funding to tackle a massive renovation officials have set out to make it better one phase at a time.
The first phase, designing improvements that will make the building greener, was approved Tuesday morning by the Teton County Board of County Commissioners.
The courthouse operates at 34% on an energy scale of 100, making it one of the least energy-efficient local government buildings.
“Aluminum frame windows lose energy like crazy,” facilities maintenance manager Paul Cote told the News&Guide on Tuesday. “And it’s a concrete block building so there isn’t much insulation.”
Five architectural firms submitted proposals after the facilities division cast a net in February.
Cote said his department negotiated with Anderson Mason Dale and CLB Architects, whose offices sit directly across from the courthouse, for services that would pair with available funding in the fiscal year 2021 capital project account and some money from the Energy Mitigation Program.
Cote said energy improvements will help the courthouse be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
“We want to provide secure and comfortable working environments for our employees and the public,” Cote said.
The Teton County Courthouse was built in 1968 and was renovated in 1997.
“At this point it is nearing the end of its current life cycle and is in need of significant upgrades in order to continue to function effectively,” Cote’s staff report states. “In addition, the security and space requirements of the occupying agencies and the general public have changed in ways that the structure can no longer accommodate.”
Cote campaigned for sweeping courthouse improvements in 2019’s specific purpose excise tax election. It was the only project that wasn’t backed by voters.
Without SPET money Cote said his division is having to find creative solutions to improve the failing courthouse.
Cote has been studying the courthouse for years and identified major shortcomings in its function, security and efficiency.
The building is about half the size it needs to be, he said. And it’s not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s also not seismically sound, he said.
On top of all that the building also requires security upgrades.
Cote regrouped after the November 2019 SPET campaign and decided on the phased improvements, starting with energy.
His office will work with architects over the next three months to design the best plan to make the building more energy efficient.
Once those designs are finished he’ll go back to county commissioners to get additional approval.
Commissioners will have to approve each phase, with the second phase being design developments for adding onto the courthouse.