County considers new build for Magistrate building

The Washington County Magistrate Court annex building, shown above at 485 E. Third St., is in bad shape. It could be demolished to make room for a new, two story building that would house Washington County Sheriff’s Office employees and other county administraive offices, in addition to the court and DMV.
Philip A. Janquart
Washington County is exploring tearing down the Magistrate Court building, located at 485 E. Third Street in Weiser, and replacing it with a new two-story structure.
 Commissioners spoke with Schlager Zimmerman Architects, LLC about the project during a March 20 meeting inside Washington County Courthouse. 
 Co-owner Dion Zimmerman approached the board, wanting to discuss the possibility of being a part of any project that would involve rebuilding the 60-year-old former grocery store.
 “I just wanted to throw my name in the hat, come in front of you, and see if there is an opportunity,” he told commissioners. “We’d love to be a part of that.”
 Schlager Zimmerman is a new architectural firm based in Weiser and has already been working with many contractors in the Valley; in particular, Beniton Construction, which has been hired to put in new security entries for the Washington County Courthouse.
 The Signal American will have more on that project in a future issue of the newspaper.
 “We are pretty preliminary at this point,” Commissioner Nate Marvin told Zimmerman during the regularly scheduled  commission meeting. “Our courthouse annex … it was there when I was a kid and we are having a lot of roof issues and now we are having some problems with sewer gases. We’ve had roof drain problems. There are several things that are going wrong with it.”
 Originally, commissioners discussed ways to increase parking around the courthouse, but the problems plaguing the Magistrate Court annex building are now garnering equal attention.
 “Earlier this month, we were looking at maybe buying some land and doing some parking lots and now we are thinking maybe demoing this courthouse annex building and building a two-story building to replace it, with the option of a third floor down the road some time.”
 Marvin told the Signal American that the Washington County Sheriff’s Office has outgrown its current space at 256 E. Court St., where the Weiser Police Department is also located.
 “We have several offices that are struggling with having enough room, so that’s what we are looking at,” he said of the potential project.
 Other offices that could occupy space in the new building include the assessor’s office and, down the road, an office for county prosecuting attorney Delton Walker who currently uses his private office to conduct county business.
 “If he retires or decides not to run again, we are going to need a spot,” Commissioner Lyndon Haines said. “We just have to think about the future.”
 Sheriff Matt Thomas said he would like to see his detectives and some of his administrative staff on the second floor with the Magistrate Court. The assessor’s office and DMV might occupy the first floor, but everything is purely in the discussion stages at the moment.
 The project, according to Marvin, could be paid for, in part, using funds allocated through the $1.9 trillion 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, which, in part, earmarked $350 billion in aid to state and local governments in the financial wake of the COVID pandemic.
 “This is just the first step; to see if it’s feasible, if we have enough money,” Marvin said.
 In terms of parking, commissioners discussed potentially taking out grass surrounding the courthouse to make room for more spots.
 In the end, Zimmerman agreed – at no cost to the county – to sketch out some “fat pencil” site plans for both a new magistrate building and additional parking.
 “I’ll put something together in the next couple weeks, then I’ll share it with (County Clerk) Donna (Atwood),” he told the commission. “Then, you can invite me back and we can have another rough conversation about it … and see where that leads.” 


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