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Eye On Boise

Divided JFAC votes 12-8 to finish off work on old Ada courthouse for law center

A divided legislative budget committee has voted 12-8 this morning to approve the final payment to renovate the old Ada County Courthouse across from the Capitol into the Idaho Law & Justice Learning Center, which will house the state law library, University of Idaho law school programs and educational programs for judges, school students and the public. The final $1.15 million payment from the state’s Permanent Building Fund will finish off work designed to allow UI law students to start attending classes there in August. The Permanent Building Fund already has spent $6 million on the project over the past five years, much of it for renovating heating and air conditioning systems, elevators and other building basics.

The University of Idaho will pay about $1 million for tenant improvements, and the Idaho Supreme Court will pay about $95,000. “So we’re up to (a total of) $9 million to get the building ready for occupancy from when the Legislature was in there,” budget analyst Robyn Lockett told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, asked how much the project is over budget. Lockett said it’s not that there have been cost overruns, but the additional costs for the project first estimated at $6 million came because of the need to stretch it out over five years, and repeatedly mobilize and de-mobilize various contractors for phases of the work.

Sen. Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello, said, “Many of the expenses taking this above the $6 million are just because we have not had the funding in our short years to carry this through all at once. That’s the cost of having tough times, and I recommend an 'aye' vote on this.” Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, said he worked in the building for 20 years back when it was a courthouse and it’s been repeatedly renovated. Then it was altered again to house the Legislature for two years while the state Capitol was being restored and renovated. “Now we’re spending $8 million to remodel it again, and I think we have spent too much money on that building, so I will be voting no,” he said. He was joined by seven other JFAC members, but the measure passed. It’s a supplemental appropriation for the current budget year; it still needs passage in both houses and the governor’s signature to become law, but budget bills rarely change once they’re set by the joint committee.



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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