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In Our View/Snohomish County Courthouse

Option to grow more costly

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Now that the Snohomish County Council has brushed aside its lone voice of reason in Ken Klein, and is proceeding full steam ahead with building a new courthouse across the street from the existing plaza, we all (taxpayers) better buckle up and brace for the promised lawsuit(s) that this decision forced from the businesses facing “emminent domain” — the condemnation and destruction of their properties, in order to begin construction on the courthouse.
How the majority of the council convinced themselves that this is the best option is difficult to imagine. In fact, the majority has never fully explained why the parking lot option became a viable option again in December, after being tabled in September, other than saying that when they originally chose to build on the existing plaza, they were “acting on bad information.” Bad information? That shouldn't have eliminated the plaza as an option, but given the county a chance to rework a plan based on good information. Bad information on one proposal didn't suddenly make the more expensive choice across the street a better option.
The Herald's Noah Haglund reports that the parking lot option costs about $30 million more than building on the plaza, but the county determined that it's a safer and more usable space. However, it also means losing an underground prisoner-transport tunnel to the jail. Which means guards will have to drive prisoners between the courthouse and the jail. What will be the cost of that?
Other known and unknown costs:
At last week's meeting when the council voted 4-1 on the parking lot site, it increased to $350,000 the amount it's prepared to pay an outside law firm to handle the condemnations. Since the targeted businesses have said they will fight, not negotiate, that number might go up ... a bit.
The County Executive's office also reported that the county is looking into buying slivers of two other properties on the block. The cost?
The county plans to demolish the old building once the new one is ready, but also may consider other uses. Since one of the main arguments against the current courthouse is that it's unsafe, if it's going to be considered for other uses, it will have to be upgraded. The cost?
The parking lot choice also means the county will have to rebuild Matthew Parsons Park, named in honor of a child homicide victim, on the corner of Wall Street and Rockefeller.
The county council has already approved a property tax hike that will cost an average homeowner about $20 more per year for the courthouse. So how does the majority on the council show citizens how much they respect their hard-earned tax dollars? By choosing the option that guarantees to be the most expensive one, starting with a lawsuit right off the bat.

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