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New combined courthouse open to public

Courthouse design mixes modern, historic styles

The new Montezuma County Combined Courthouse is the most modern in the state, with a design that also recognizes the region’s ancient culture.

During a grand opening Wednesday, local and state dignitaries gathered to mark the occasion that combines district court, county court and probation all under one roof at 865 N. Park St.

The sloping building is aligned to face Mesa Verde with a circular kiva design representing the community rooms of the Ancestral Puebloans.

“This is the newest and most technically advanced courthouse in Colorado,” said District Court Judge Doug Walker. “The building’s design is a nod to the prior inhabitants of the area.”

The county was the last in the state to finally combine both courts as required under state statutes, he said, and the result is increased efficiency and improved public service. It was built by Jaynes Corp. of Colorado and designed by Humphries Poli Architects.

The total price tag for the 29,000-square-foot courthouse came to $9.5 million, of which Montezuma County contributed $6.6 million. The rest came from state grants, including Underfunded Courts and Department of Local Affairs.

“The county paid the vast majority, and they paid it out of cash reserves – not one penny of increased taxes,” Walker said. “This commission and past commissions were able to save money for a rainy day. The people of Montezuma County paid for, and own, this facility.”

The front public hall is flooded with natural light. It leads to four spacious courtrooms equipped with state-of-the art security, sound systems and video-conferencing equipment.

Secure holding cells behind the scenes lead directly into the courtrooms. There are cameras everywhere, bulletproof glass and a secure entrance monitored by an X-ray machine. The courthouse has a certified rating under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

During a tour, locals ate cake, viewed courtrooms, checked out a research room where people can pull up case records on a computer, and visited the community kiva room with views of Mesa Verde.

“I think it’s fantastic,” said visitor Debbie Ayala, of Cortez. “It’s so modern, a big change from the old courthouses.”

Having both courts and probation offices in one building allows for improved and more convenient service for clients, said probation officer Kacie Henderson.

Sitting behind a bank of screens, Montezuma County deputy Dale Foote views every part of the courthouse, inside and out.

“We continually track what is happening and can respond quickly if there is a problem or looks like there might be,” he said. “The new security technology at the entrance is very advanced and efficient.”

Commissioner Larry Don Suckla explained that the county sought a new building after a bid to remodel the county building to house both courts came in at nearly $5 million.

“That whole building is not worth that, and the plan did not allow for future growth, so we chose to go another way,” he said. “This building will last 50 to 60 years into the future.”

jmimiaga@the-journal.com

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