September 26, 2014 - Wilber, Nebraska - Saline County residents can get many of their questions answered about the planned courthouse addition via a new website, www.salinecountycourthouse.info.
The site, launched earlier this month, is designed to be the primary “news portal” to keep the public up-to-date about the project, said Tim McDermott, Saline County commissioner. “Our board members paid attention to concerns voiced by the public pertaining to the courthouse addition,” he said. “This website will provide expanded details on the project and because the Internet is so fluid, we can deliver and update that information more quickly than through board meeting minutes or even the media,” McDermott said.
The seeds for the idea for an addition were planted back in 2008 when the board was considering whether to repair or replace the courthouse chairlift. The lift was somewhat temperamental — staff had to sometimes assist visitors if the chair didn’t settle all the way to the ground properly — and impractical for people with small children. Installing an elevator seemed the best solution, which led board members to conclude that a more comprehensive and long-term approach was needed if the county was to solve problems of accessibility, maintenance and safety in an 86-year old building. “We soon found that addressing a single issue at a time would, in effect, increase the cost of the next featured update if brought to completion individually,” said board member, Willis Luedke.
Plans for the $4.1 million dollar addition, unveiled last June, address deficiencies of space, fire safety, security and accessibility without compromising the historic character of the building. The new Addition will have an elevator, ADA-compliant restrooms, and a new staircase to comply with fire & safety codes. The new space will also allow government offices that are currently housed off-site, to return to the courthouse.
Not surprisingly, Saline County residents have a lot of questions about the construction of an addition to an iconic structure. How will it mesh with the existing building? What will the impact be on parking? How will courthouse activities function while the building is under construction? Said McDermott, “All questions are valid and we will address them as best we can via the ever-expanding FAQ section of our website.”
The County Board is also investigating a potential, supplementary funding mechanism in addition to developing prospects for additional parking. The bidding process is currently expected to begin in late January or early February. Construction most likely won’t begin until Spring and is expected to take about 20 months.