A drawing shows a planned addition. (Heery International)

A drawing shows a planned addition. (Heery International)

Council approves $74M renovation of courthouse

EVERETT — An overhaul of the aging Snohomish County courthouse could get started later this year, after elected leaders voted Wednesday to move ahead with a major renovation project.

The County Council voted 3-2 to approve the package recommended by County Executive Dave Somers. It comes with a $72 million price tag.

“The current courthouse needs repairs, so doing nothing is not a viable option,” said County Councilman Terry Ryan, who supported the plan.

The county’s justice building stands on Wall Street between Wetmore and Rockefeller avenues. It was built in 1967 and connects to the historic Mission building.

Serious efforts to replace or remodel the five-story with a basement courthouse have been ongoing for most of the past decade.

That includes a $162 million option to build an eight-story courthouse across the street, including on land acquired through eminent domain. That project was abandoned in 2015, a week before the scheduled groundbreaking, because of cost and parking concerns.

The plan that advanced Wednesday centers on $62.9 million in remodeling priorities. The main feature is a new five-story tower on the north side of the building with a ground-floor security screening area, modern elevators and restrooms. The cost would be paid with money remaining from $75 million in bonds that the county sold for courthouse improvements in 2013. The bonds are being paid back through a property-tax increase. Roughly $12 million has been spent on property and other work related to the abandoned project for a new courthouse, as well as work to prepare the renovation plan.

The courthouse remodel would add about 29,000 square feet, expanding the courthouse about 25 percent from its current size.

Troubles there include a layout that makes it hard to ensure security of employees and court users. The building needs more bracing to better withstand an earthquake. Its elevators frequently break down and are so old that some replacement parts have to be custom made.

The lone bathroom in the building that complies with federal laws for people with disabilities can only be reached by an elevator that doesn’t meet those same federal standards.

Council members also agreed to more than $9 million in additional work that went beyond the available courthouse bond money. It includes modernizing heating and air systems, courtroom audio-visual equipment and security features. That money would come from an existing tax on property transactions.

Somers said the work should extend the life of the courthouse another 50 years, though some maintenance and upgrades will be needed during that time.

County Council Chairman Brian Sullivan said it was some of those future costs that gave him pause and led him to vote against the remodel. Sullivan said he isn’t opposed to the idea, but wanted more information.

“I wanted to feel more confident about the engineering and the numbers,” Sullivan said. “I might have voted for it had some of those questions been answered.”

Councilwoman Stephanie Wright also voted in opposition.

The county’s Superior Court bench had until recently favored waiting longer for a new building rather than renovating sooner. That changed after the latest plans from the county’s architect, Atlanta-based Heery International. Judge Michael Downes said he was “pleasantly surprised” at what the architect was able to accomplish within those plans, but said it might be optimistic to expect another 50 years of life from the building.

“I agree that the court situation is untenable and that it absolutely needs to be fixed,” Downes told the council.

Construction is likely to continue through mid-2020. Once work gets started, the county plans to move a veterans’ memorial on the courthouse plaza to a spot nearby.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A view of one of the potential locations of the new Aquasox stadium on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 in Everett, Washington. The site sits between Hewitt Avenue, Broadway, Pacific Avenue and the railroad. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
20 businesses could be demolished for downtown Everett stadium

Some business owners say the city didn’t tell them of plans for a new AquaSox stadium that could displace their businesses.

Kathy Purviance-Snow poses for a photo in her computer lab at Snohomish High School on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Snohomish, WA. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
To ban or embrace ChatGPT? Local teachers fight AI with AI — or don’t

“It has fundamentally changed my teaching in really stressful and exciting ways,” an EvCC teacher said. At all levels of education, ChatGPT poses a tricky question.

In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo a Boeing 737 MAX 7 is displayed during a debut for employees and media of the new jet in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FAA gives Boeing 90 days to develop plan to fix quality, safety issues

The agency’s ultimatum comes a day after a meeting with CEO Dave Calhoun and other top Boeing officials in Washington, D.C.

A man walks by Pfizer headquarters, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in New York. Pfizer will spend about $43 billion to buy Seagen and broaden its reach into cancer treatments, the pharmaceutical giant said. (AP Photo / Mark Lennihan, File)
Pfizer backs out of Everett manufacturing plant after $43B Seagen deal

Pfizer finalized the acquisition of the Bothell-based cancer drug developer in December.

SonShine Preschool inside First Baptist Church Monroe is pictured Friday, March 1, 2024, in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
SonShine preschool in Monroe to close at the end of the year

The preschool, operated by First Baptist Church, served kids for 25 years. School leadership did not explain the reason behind the closure.

Cars drive through snow along I-5 in Snohomish County, Washington on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
In March, 7 p.m. sunsets are back for Western Washington

Washingtonians will finally start seeing more sun starting March 10. But a little more winter could be on the way first.

One of the parking lots at Stevens Pass Thursday afternoon on December 30, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Stevens Pass to charge $20 for parking reservations on busy days

Two-thirds of spaces will remain free for early arrivers on weekends. Cars with four or more occupants can also park free.

Days after shootout with Lynnwood police, suspect checks into hospital

Police learned the 18-year-old was in a hospital in Portland, Oregon. His alleged role in the shooting remained unclear.

Snohomish County pharmacy tech accused of stealing 2,500 opioid pills

Rachel Langdon stole oxycodone while working at a Snohomish County pharmacy, according to state Department of Health allegations.

Patrick Kunz speaks during his sentencing on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington.(Annie Barker / The Herald)
Everett gymnastics coach who spied on students sentenced to 6 months

Patrick Kunz, 47, pleaded guilty to charges of voyuerism and possession of child pornography last month.

Traffic moves along Highway 526 in front of Boeing’s Everett Production Facility on Nov. 28, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / Sound Publishing)
Everett transgender mechanic alleges Boeing treated her ‘like a zoo animal’

For years, Boeing allowed toxicity “to fester and grow” at its Everett factory, according to Rachel Rasmussen, an employee from 1989 to 2024.

Everett police officers survey the scene of a shooting along East Casino Road on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Washington’s 5th police academy could be in Snohomish County

A new academy in Northwest Washington would help clear a lengthy wait list for new police hires to get training.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.