CRESTVIEW — The Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners today voted 4-1 to raze the Crestview courthouse and rebuild a new facility on the same site within two years.
Commissioner Trey Goodwin of District 4 voted nay, questioning the expense.
“This is big stuff,” board chairman Nathan Boyles said. “We’re going to demolish the courthouse: bring out our bulldozers, push it away, and spend $21 million on a beautiful new, Southern-style downtown courthouse.”
Boyles said it is important to keep the county’s main courthouse downtown in the county seat.
“The goal is to achieve a facility that the citizens up here can be proud of and make sure Crestview will be the home of the county courthouse for the next generation,” Boyles said.
During discussion at Tuesday’s board meeting, members of the city’s Historic Preservation Board, including President Ann Spann, Graham Fountain, Linda Parker and Cal Zethmayr, stressed the importance of maintaining downtown’s historic architecture in the new facility.
“The board gave specific instructions to the design team that we want to take these comments into consideration,” Boyles said. “We want this to feel like a Southern town square-type of traditional courthouse.”
Boyles said the existing courthouse has served the community well over its more than 60 years, but has outlived its lifespan. Recently discovered mold, a failing heating and cooling system and leaky roof are among challenges that would’ve been faced had the board decided to renovate the building.
“The commission had the will to say, ‘the heck with all that. Let’s push it into a pile.’”
“We can rebuild it just as quickly and have a much more functional, durable and beautiful facility for the citizens of Okaloosa County by starting with a clean slate in the county seat and downtown,” Boyles said.
Boyles said county facilities currently housed in the courthouse will be vacated within the next two or three months.
While maintaining a temporary court presence in Crestview, due to the mold treatment, is under discussion, judges’ offices will be moved to the Water and Sewer Building, known as the “Taj Mahal,” in Fort Walton Beach “because the rent is free,” Boyles said. “The goal is to have some level of presence up here.”
EVOLUTION OF THE COURTHOUSE PLANS
First idea: $60,000 to refurbish portions of the current courthouse
Second idea: $8 million to renovate the courthouse entirely
Third idea: $12 million to totally renovate the courthouse and add an addition
Fourth idea: $17 to totally renovate the courthouse and add an addition after further planning
Latest idea: $21 million to raze the courthouse and build a new facility on the site