Montezuma County officials got a surprise this week when they learned that city of Cortez planners wanted the main traffic entrance to the new courthouse relocated by 185 feet for safety reasons.
But after an hour of intense debate at Tuesday night’s city council meeting, the council voted against the advice of their own planners and unanimously agreed to keep the entrance in its original location.
“Moving the entrance would cost the county between $30,000 and $50,000,” said Monty Guiles, the county owners representative for the courthouse project. “We worked very hard to get the price down from $11 million to $8.2 million.”
The new courthouse is being built on land owned by the county on N. Park Street, south of the Montezuma County sheriff’s office. Because it is within the city limits the project had to go through the city planning process.
The courthouse’s main east entrance lines up with the east-west running Driscoll Street where it intersects with Park Street.
But there was a difference of opinion between city planners and the county on where the entrance should be, and whether the current entrance is technically a driveway.
“The city engineers recommend that the entrance be moved to the south (further down Park St.) for safety issues and to address sight distance issues,” said city planner Tracie Hughes. “Moving it would allow more time for people coming out of the courthouse and for vehicles coming around the corner,” from the sheriff’s office.
In making their case to relocate the entrance, city planners argued that because the current location will have a stop sign, it is considered a “stop controlled” intersection under the city code. It therefore requires a 240-foot line-of-sight distance requirement that cannot be met from the current location.
But the county objected, saying the current entrance had already been approved by city planners as a “driveway” and meets the 115-foot line-of-sight distance requirement for that category.
“We interpreted it one way, and they interpreted it another. The driveway meets the requirements,” Guiles said.
City planners wanted to move the entrance so it would not interfere with emergency traffic coming from the nearby sheriff’s office. Another concern expressed was that because the current entrance aligns with Driscoll St., a vehicle could plausibly gain enough speed to ram the courthouse.
Guiles responded that there will be security bollards installed in front of the courthouse to stop such an act.
District Judge Doug Walker felt comfortable with the current entrance.
“I’m convinced that safety is not a problem,” he said.
The council was not persuaded to change the entrance, and voted 7-0 to keep the original driveway.
“To me it sounds like measures have been taken to address safety issues,” said councilwoman Jill Carlson.