Whitman County Courthouse renovation begins Monday

Staff, office relocation is complete, expected to last for full year

Offices+in+the+Whitman+County+Courthouse+have+been+relocated+to+the+Warwick+Building+and+the+Whitman+County+Public+Services+Building.

HAILEE SPEIR

Offices in the Whitman County Courthouse have been relocated to the Warwick Building and the Whitman County Public Services Building.

CALLIE GERBER

The $9.2 million Whitman County Courthouse renovation in Colfax begins Monday.

The project includes upgrading the 1950s elevator to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, upgrading the heating, ventilating and air conditioning system. It also includes installing new electrical wires and adding metal to the exterior of the county jail, said Whitman County Commissioner Art Swannack. 

“We’ve had to repair [the elevator] so many times lately, and it just continues to fail. It’s past the end of its life,” Commissioner Tom Handy said.

The project is funded by $4.2 million from the American Rescue Plan Act. The rest of the money came from capital reserves the commissioners set aside over the past couple of years, Swannack said.

“It’s an old, clunky building,” Handy said. “Any building at that age needs to have some updating.”

The renovation forced everyone who was working in the courthouse to relocate. Project leaders considered doing the project in phases to avoid a complete relocation, but that was not feasible because there would be a lot of noise and dust, Swannack said.

To replace the HVAC system, workers have to remove asbestos, and staff cannot be in the courthouse for that, he said. In addition, upgrading the elevator involves destroying two walls of the old elevator shaft and expanding them. This would echo through the whole building.

The courthouse relocation is done and went smoothly, Handy said. The Whitman County Assessor’s Office, Auditor’s Department, Treasurer’s Office and Human Resources Department moved to the Warwick Building, which is across the street from the courthouse. 

The Whitman County Commissioners, Prosecutor’s Office, Juvenile Court and Child Advocate Program, and the Superior Court moved to the first floor of the Whitman County Public Service Building. The Department of Licensing and Recording and Superior Court Clerk Office moved to the second floor of the building, Swannack said.

All jury duty for Superior Court will be served at the Whitman County Public Service Building, Swannack said. District Court is operating five days a week at the old Pullman City Hall on Paradise Street.

Staff from the courthouse were able to move to the Warwick Building because there was empty space, which they leased, Swannack said.

There was some space the Pullman Office of the Whitman County Health Department was not using in the Public Service Building, so some of the courthouse offices moved there, he said. There is a wall separating the courthouse offices and health department, so there will not be any Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act issues.

The renovation is supposed to be completed in May 2022, Handy said. However, there are already some supply delays. 

Staff members are planning to be relocated for a full 12 months, he said. The lease agreements can be adjusted if the renovation takes longer than expected.