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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


$44 million Dane County Courthouse opens doors

[media-credit name=’BRYAN FAUST/Herald Photo’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]courtbig1_bf_416[/media-credit]After 47 years of work in the City County Building, the Dane County court system moved to the newly constructed county courthouse Jan. 9.

Officials hope the courthouse, which cost $44 million to build, will result in lower energy costs and increased security standards for future county construction projects.

Dane County's Chief Judge Michael Nowakowski said plans to build the new courthouse have been in the works for almost 17 years.


"There's no question it's been long overdue," he said.

Despite aims to complete construction as soon as possible, the first order of business is to replace more than 100 doors installed in the third floor of the building.

The doors are the wrong color and have glass windows, and replacement costs will reportedly be between $60,000 and $80,000.

According to Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, the doors pose a concern for confidentiality issues. He said the design specifically called for solid doors to ensure victims, witnesses and others privacy.

But door issues aside, Verveer said the new building is a "great thing" because the old courthouse had outlived its useful life.

The new building on South Hamilton Street includes underground tunnels specifically made for inmates to be brought into the courthouse, as well as a rooftop garden that can be used for weddings.

Despite concerns about space, Nowakowski said the move to the new courthouse has been successful.

"Right now, we are feeling our way into this new building," he said. "I think we've done a pretty good job of preparing ourselves to move in here."

In the long run to finalize construction plans, Verveer said a majority of the debate centered on both location and overall cost.

According to Nowakowski, the courthouse could have been larger to accommodate all county offices, but size was compromised in order to gain ultimate approval of construction.

"We have the space to expand, but in the long run, the building should've been built larger," he said.

Some of the offices remaining in the City County Building include judge staff attorney offices, the Department of Corrections and Probation Office and the district attorney's prosecution office.

But Nowakowski said the biggest improvements to the courthouse are the measures taken to increase security and safety.

"Most assuredly, the new building will be much more user-friendly to the citizens who are required to come to court," he said.

At the old building, in-custody defendants were brought every day in chains with bailiffs within close proximity to civilians, victims, jurors and other witnesses, Verveer said.

"From a safety perspective, the new courthouse is a godsend," he said. "The new building was built with safety in mind."

With safety as a key component of the building, the courthouse is also designated as a "green" building — built to be environmentally conscious — and includes furniture made from natural materials, special tinted windows designed to keep or reduce heat depending on the season, and a rain guard to collect storm water.

"There are a bunch of energy efficiencies that will save the county on energy costs," Verveer said. "Great strides were made in many different aspects to make it an environmentally sound building."

Nowakowski added the new techniques to save energy are also cost effective for the county.

"I can't think of any good reason why anyone who is planning a large-scale building shouldn't utilize these techniques," he said.

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk called the new building "really remarkable" and, in a release, said, "it's the first building to be built in Dane County like this."

Falk said the new courthouse and its environmentally sustainable features will serve as a model for other large-scale projects in the future.

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