Study recommends Waukesha County to renovate courthouse
City Hall inclusion part of plan as well
Waukesha County Director of Public Works Allison Bussler gave a snapshot of the issues at the Waukesha County Courthouse building.
"There's at least a few days a year when we can't control the temperature," Bussler said. "(And) last year or the year before we had a water main break. Luckily, we are connected to the administration building so we didn't have to shut down operations.
"But what you would see is those types of things happening more and more often and we're trying to be proactive."
That's why extensive studies have taken place on whether to remodel, renovate or build a new courthouse building, which was built in 1959.
And the study, conducted by the Milwaukee-based Zimmerman Architectural Studios, Inc. in collaboration with the National Center for State Courts, earlier this year, concluded that renovating the courthouse with a courts building addition is the best option.
The criteria was based on construction cost, operating cost, functionality, site constraints, security, future expansion, sustainable reuse, schedule impact, City of Waukesha inclusion and financing.
The addition of a new 50,000-square-foot Waukesha City Hall was included in this option, John Sabinash, the project manager at Zimmerman, told the County Board last week.
Sabinash said an estimated cost is $72.5 million, but in 2019, when construction would first begin, the estimated inflated expense is about $91.1 million.
It includes the construction of a new four-story building that would be connected to the existing courthouse.
"The project while not the least expensive is also not the most expensive so it provides a better opportunity to find a financial solution that maintains the County's AAA bond rating while achieving the majority of the goals," the report said.
Project in phases
Bussler said County Executive Dan Vrakas was scheduled to introduce his 2014-19 capital plan this week, which could include the project. County Chairman Paul Decker said last week was an overview of the study and board members can share their thoughts during meetings over the next month.
The study notes separating pieces of construction in phases provides significant temporary relocation savings and more achievable financing options.
The first phase would include demolition of the jail built in 1959 and construction of an eight-courtroom building. A 2002 report that identified an approach to providing a multi-level courts solution adjacent to the present jail and adjacent to the existing courthouse was referred to in the most recent study. Removing the present facility allows for a contemporary courts solution, it concludes.
Bussler said improvements in this area will allow better connectivity and allow for improved management of inmates.
"This phase would create minimal disruption to the existing courthouse," the study, which the county budgeted $250,000 for last year (Bussler noted bids came in around $130,000), said.
The study backed up Bussler's statements saying, "the building envelope represents the construction typology of a bygone era."
It said most of the piping systems are from the 1957 buildings and 1967 buildings and many of the major duct systems within the building are from the original construction. Moreover, three air handling units are from the original building.
It further explains architecturally, the building is structurally sound "but is governed by a column spacing that is counterproductive to court proceedings. Floor to floor heights in the present facility do not represent common contemporary solutions and are rather restrictive, but workable."
"The system that really needs replacing in a large way are the air handling units, plumbing and electrical and to replace those systems you need to tear down walls," Bussler said at last week's Waukesha County Board meeting. "They're very disruptive. That is the costly portion that needs to be done at some point in time."
Breaking down scenarios
The report concludes a new heating and air conditioning system would be installed to a 'state-of-the-art' direct digital control system, new piping systems would be installed, a sanitary drain and vent piping would be replaced in all above ground plumbing and storm drain piping would be replaced.
Sabinash said there were many options vetted, including remodeling that would have cost between $53 and $78 million, to a new building priced at $100 to $140 million. Four final options were then selected, which Zimmerman furthered examined.
"They were all scored and all had pros and cons, but they all went through a thorough objective process to find the best one," Bussler said, while admitting, "I'll be honest there's some challenges to this proposal. It's a longer process so if you're a user of this building it's more disruptive for a longer period of time. The cost in every scenario is a challenge."
Option includes city
In both the renovation and new scenarios, having the City of Waukesha on its campus was included.
"After the results of this study we're even more interested in that item in more detail," Bussler said.
City staff will hear the study before it eventually goes to the Common Council.
"We would have to discuss some of the benefits of a partnership with the city and if there is space that we could share," Bussler said. "Could you all share a county board room with the city? Could we have meetings on different days?
"Some folks talked about larger programmatic sharing. I'm not sure if that's what we're going to study, but it's sure easier to talk about it if you're sitting in the (same) cafeteria. There's lots of scenarios we can talk about over the next several years."
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