Spokane County estimates it has spent around $1 million to date creating a new customer service center on the first floor of the courthouse at 1116 W. Broadway, and it anticipates it will spend another $1 million completing the process.
Ron Oscarson, facilities director for the county, says the remaining work, which includes moving the county's family court off the first floor and relocating the treasurer's office, is planned for completion within the next two years.
Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter, county spokeswoman, says the department reorganizations tied to the customer service center started four years ago. When finished, the center will include the county assessor's, treasurer's and auditor's offices on the first floor.
"The auditor's office made the move in February to put some licensing on the first floor," Wheatley-Billeter says.
Wheatley-Billeter says the idea is to have the first floor be heavily used by the public, but that restructuring poses a privacy concern for the family law center, also currently located on the first floor.
"These are people in crisis, and we need to get them up with the other courts," Wheatley-Billeter says. As the first floor is organized currently, family law is in the middle of a heavily used floor, she says.
The 14-courtroom courthouse includes civil, criminal, drug, family, and juvenile courts, which are located mainly on the second-through-fourth floors of the building. The county is looking to move family court up to the second floor.
Oscarson says in the long term, it's looking to move two additional county courts located across the street in the Broadway Centre Building at 721 N. Jefferson back to the courthouse to consolidate its court services in one building.
With the opening of the customer service center, Wheatley-Billeter says the courthouse reopened the main south entrance off Broadway about a year ago, making it Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible.
Oscarson says an entrance on the west end of the courthouse's main floor was closed when the Broadway entrance reopened, and a security screening station was moved to that new location. An entrance and security screening station still are open in the courthouse annex, he says.
Oscarson says much of the work at the courthouse tied to the customer service project has involved structural repairs, and upgrades to the heating and air conditioning, paid for through state funds for courthouse restoration and improvements.
"We're trying to make it much more customer friendly, and much more aesthetically pleasing as well," Oscarson says.
In preparation for an office addition, the mail room moved from the second floor across from the budget office down to first-floor courthouse annex space where motor vehicle licensing for the auditor's office previously was located.
"Licensing moved out and the mailroom has moved into part of that first floor space," Wheatley-Billeter says, adding that move took place late March.
Moving motor vehicle licensing to the southwest corner of the first floor is phase three of creating the customer service center, and was completed late March. With the following phase geared toward moving family law, the fifth phase will include moving the treasurer's office to the northeast corner of the first floor, which will complete the customer service center.
Formerly accessed by the U.S. Postal Service by an elevator, Wheatley-Billeter says having the mail room on the first floor ensures continuous mail delivery to the courthouse. She says USPS contends that if the elevator were to stop working, mail service would be interrupted until it was fixed.
Separate from the reorganization and improvement work being done on the customer service center, an office remodel is under way following John Dickson's move into his new role as chief operations officer for the county as of March 1, Wheatley-Billeter says.
The office remodel, taking place on the second floor where the mail room formerly was located, is a $26,000 project awarded to Spokane-based M. E. Uphus Construction Inc., Oscarson says, and will be completed in a few weeks.
That new office space used by Dixon will be located closer to the budget office, also located on the second floor, Wheatley-Billeter says.
Dickson had formerly been the Spokane-based director for the Washington state Employment Security Department.
In addition to internal changes within the courthouse, Wheatley-Billeter says the county moved its veteran services division to the fourth floor of the Spokane Regional Health District building from an older brick building located across the street from its new location. The Spokane Regional Health District is located just north of the Kendall Yards development. Formerly at 1102 W. College Ave., the veteran services division has been located at 1101 W. College Ave. since Jan. 17, she says.
Since veteran services vacated the smaller building, Wheatley-Billeter says the county is mulling what to do with that building, which it owns. She says the county is considering tearing the structure down, but several Spokane nonprofits have expressed interest in leasing it.
She says all nonprofits looking at the building provide veterans affairs services, which would complement the county's veteran services. The county is working on removing filing cabinets stored in the building and likely will perform minor improvements to the space before it's rented out.
The Spokane County Courthouse was built in 1895.
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