By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – A seven-member committee has been formed to help make decisions as plans proceed on a new Canadian County Courthouse complex.
Building committee members will be District 3 County Commissioner Tracey Rider, Court Clerk Marie Hirst, County Clerk Sherry Murray, County Treasurer Jay Arnold, County Assessor Matt Wehmuller, Assistant District Attorney Tommy Humphries, and a district judge.
Canadian County Commissioners, at their weekly meeting July 3, voted 3-0 to approve the panel’s make-up.
The committee will work closely with construction manager Stan Lingo and architect MA+ Architecture during the “programming” phase of the future courthouse complex project.
“Lingo and MA+ asked that we determine a group that can make some ‘high-level’ decisions related to the courthouse process,” Canadian County Commission Chairman Dave Anderson said.
The construction manager, architect and committee will receive input from stakeholders as they help develop a new facility that would house all judicial and most county government offices.
These stakeholders will include county departments and divisions, along with groups (such as attorneys) due to use the building.
The first of three “pre-design” workshops with stakeholders will be conducted soon.
“They are responsible to present a report back to us after the three site visits,” said Anderson, the District 2 county commissioner. “No major decisions are going to be made until all three of those are completed.”
Commissioner Rider, Court Clerk Hirst, County Clerk Murray, and Treasurer Arnold served on a previous committee that recommended MA+ be hired as the project architect.
Commissioners agreed July 3 to broaden the composition of that group by appointing three more members to the newly formed building committee.
Assessor Wehmuller asked to join fellow county elected officials on the panel.
“I would just like a voice in the process, especially for things that directly affect my office,” Wehmuller told commissioners at Monday’s meeting.
“As long as I feel my voice is being heard and I can have confidence in the decision you all ultimately make based on input that I’ve provided, I’m OK with that.”
District 1 Commissioner Tom Manske cited the desire to include representatives of the Canadian County DA’s Office and Judiciary.
District Judge Khristan K. Strubhar has “shown an interest in being a part of this process,” Rider noted.
Canadian County’s Board of Commissioners will approve the program before the design phase begins.
That’s when an estimated project cost will be presented.
HOW MUCH AUTHORITY?
Commissioners still must determine the new building committee’s authority and define its responsibilities – as Chairman Anderson said, “what it will be empowered to do.”
“We’ve talked about this committee’s role (in) making decisions like scheduling and inclusion of each stakeholder’s concept of needs,” he noted.
“I’m comfortable giving some of the board’s power to the committee, especially if it includes more diversity – the assessor, the DA and the judge.
“That’s not going to happen in a vacuum. … We interact with each other enough that we’ll be aware of the directions that our planning process is taking us.”
The three commissioners will make the major decisions about building a new Canadian County courthouse complex – specifically the size, location and budget.
They will approve the final plan – but there will be months of work to reach that point.
“The end product’s going to come to you all,” ADA Humphries advised commissioners this week. “(B)ut that committee’s going to be asked to make some decisions.
“Lingo and the architect, at some point, are going to start asking for decisions. … In this pre-design phase, they’re going to want inputs that help them know where they should invest their energy.”
The building committee could be tasked with deciding, for example:
- How many courtrooms the new courthouse will have.
- Which county departments will occupy space in the building.
- Whether there will be underground parking on site.
Canadian County Commissioners already have set aside $8 million in the county’s general fund budget for future construction of a new county courthouse/administration building.
They plan to use $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal stimulus funds toward construction.
Canadian County’s continued population growth has been cited as a primary reason for developing a new courthouse complex.
The county’s existing administration building also is more than 60 years old and has maintenance issues.
Canadian is the fourth largest – and fastest-growing – of Oklahoma’s 77 counties.
Canadian County’s population increased by 33.6% (115,541 to 154,405) between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Canadian County’s estimated 2023 population is 166,063 with a growth rate of 2.4% in the past year, according to recent U.S. Census data.
ODDS ‘N ENDS
Among other business at their weekly meeting July 3, Canadian County Commissioners approved:
- An annual independent contactor agreement with Guy Engineering to provide on-call engineering services in fiscal year 2024.
- A contract with Tisdale & O’Hara PLLC for FY24 to represent the Canadian County Assessor’s Office in legal protests over property assessments.
- Contracts with Kiowa and Logan counties to provide juvenile detention bed space in FY24 at the Canadian County Children’s Justice Center.
Canadian County Undersheriff Kevin Ward presented the weekly county jail report showing an inmate population totaling 209, with 184 prisoners at the El Reno detention center and 25 others housed in contracted counties.
The total count is up 14 from last week as 46 prisoners await transfer to state Department of Corrections’ custody.