By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – Planning has kicked off on designs for a modern Canadian County courthouse complex – expected to fill an entire city block, if not more.
“We have outgrown all the buildings, and we’re continuing to grow,” District 3 Canadian County Commissioner Tracey Rider said.
Rider, in her first year on the three-member Canadian County Commission, was recently appointed to a committee that will help select an architect to design a new county courthouse/administration building.
Other committee members are County Clerk Sherry Murray, Court Clerk Marie Hirst and County Treasurer Jay Arnold.
“We want the public to take ownership in this project,” Hirst said.
“Our goal is to accomplish a facility that is a reflection of the citizens of Canadian County and the history of Canadian County.”
The architect selection committee wants the new building to be designed to accommodate Canadian County’s long-term growth, with the ability to expand.
“We want to build a building that will withstand the test of time, do the citizens of Canadian County proud and be able to take care of all their needs,” Hirst said. “We want to make sure we get the ‘best bang for our buck’.”
With the committee’s input, commissioners will later hire an architectural firm to draw up plans for a multi-story courthouse/administration facility in the county seat.
“It will probably have at least one basement floor, if not two,” Hirst added. “It will at least be the size of a city block.”
The project may include a parking garage, which would generate funds for the county through parking and permit fees.
It is too early to tell where this new, larger Canadian County courthouse complex will stand.
“That has not been decided yet,” Rider said during the Feb. 7th Yukon Legislative Breakfast.
Many decisions await the architect selection committee and County Commissioners.
“What are the needs of each elected official and their office?” Rider said. “What are the needs of the judges?”
TIME FOR A CHANGE
Canadian County’s 60-year-old administration building, 201 N Choctaw, is outdated and has been plagued by mechanical problems. It is too small and several county government offices are housed in other places.
Canadian County’s judges, courtrooms, the District Attorney’s Office, and Court Clerk’s Office occupy the Judicial Building at 301 N Choctaw.
Canadian County officers and department directors are seeking a state-of-the-art facility to house county administrative and judicial offices under one roof.
The architect selection team and other Canadian County elected officials were in Norman recently for the County Officers and Deputies Association (CODA)’s spring conference.
“We had a meeting, and I showed them some of my sketches and a list of architects that have been proposed to us by Lingo,” Hirst said. “We’d like to narrow it down to our top five so that the commissioners and all of us can interview them.
“We want something that depicts and represents the beginning and the future of Canadian County.”
The chosen project architect and construction manager Stan Lingo will help county commissioners develop design plans and cost estimates.
Contractors will be used construct this new county government facility.
Canadian County Commissioners previously set aside $8 million in the county general fund budget for a new county courthouse complex.
Another $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal stimulus funds have been earmarked for this project.
In late March 2022, several Canadian County officers toured the Rogers County Courthouse near Tulsa as they started planning for a new courthouse complex.
In 2014, Rogers County constructed a 100,000-square foot, four-story building.
Canadian County Commission Chairman Dave Anderson has estimated a similar facility would now cost around $30 million.
Canadian County is the fastest-growing county in Oklahoma.
The county’s estimated 2023 population is 166,063 with a growth rate of 2.4% in the past year, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
Canadian County’s population increased by 33.6% – from 115,541 to 154,405 – between the official 2010 and 2020 censuses.
Canadian is the state’s fourth largest county, behind Oklahoma, Tulsa and Cleveland.