Courthouse Repairs Could Cost Hall County $10-14 Million


Putting a cost on preserving history, Hall County comes up with a figure to save its courthouse.

After several board meetings, and no action, the head of the Hall County Board took it upon himself to call a news conference, to release the architect's estimates, mere moments after he received them.

Renovating the historic courthouse in Grand Island may cost between $10 and 14 million.

Board Chair Bob McFarland said, "I'm pleasantly surprised. Thought they might be over $15 million."

At a minimum, it'll cost least a million and a half to repair plumbing and heating that could fail anytime.

County Supervisor Pam Lancaster said, "We're not going to kick the can down the road. We can't afford to."

They also have space needs with more judges handling more cases. Currently they have four full time judges, along with one who splits time with Buffalo County.

Lancaster said, "They need more help. More judges will be assigned to Hall County Court and 9th District, Grand Island so that means we must add two courtrooms at minimum."

Ten million is the estimate for a plan that uses the old police station next to the courthouse.A third floor would be added to the annex, along with a walkway and lobby between the buildings.

Another option is building a two story addition on the backside of the courthouse. That would cost more, but probably meet more long range needs.

In total, they're considering six options, variations of those two main choices.

But does McFarland have a favorite?

"Not really," he said. "I want to take a good look at all of them. I feel that an addition would be the way to go, but I haven't decided which one yet."

Regardless, they want the courthouse to be more than a landmark. Lancaster said Hall County already has a museum.

She said this building, even though it may be 100 years old, has decades left as a working courthouse.

"The courthouse has great bones. It's a very good building. I think by addressing these needs we will be addressing needs of courts far into the future -- 50, 75 years anyway," she said.

McFarland said, "This is a building we're building for the next 75 years, not a patchwork thing that's just going to take us 15 years down the road."

They got input from judges, who feel its best to leave the large, district courtrooms in the historic courthouse and build smaller county courtrooms in the new court area.

Don't expect any construction until at least next year, and it could take a couple of years to complete.