Submitted by Thurston County Board of Commissioners
After several meetings and briefings, on Tuesday, January 22, 2019, the Board of County Commissioners voted 2-1 to build a new Courthouse and Civic Center in Downtown Olympia on the existing City of Olympia property located on Plum Street. The vote followed an executive session where the Commissioners discussed financial strategies for each site.
Commissioners John Hutchings and Tye Menser voted in favor of the Plum Street site, referencing opportunities for partnership and collaboration. Commissioner Gary Edwards voted to renovate and expand the existing Courthouse Complex on the Hilltop Site.
“This is a huge step for this commission to partner with the City of Olympia and help with many of their other issues,” said Commission Chair, John Hutchings. “I personally value alliances, partnerships, and collaboration; this decision, in my opinion, provides just that with the City of Olympia.”
The three sites that were considered include:
- Hill Top Site – Renovation / Expansion of the Courthouse and Civic Center at its current Lakeridge Drive location;
- Plum Street Site – Construction of a new Courthouse and Civic Center on the existing City of Olympia property on Plum Street; and
- Harrison West Site – Construction of a new Courthouse and Civic Center on the Harrison West property located at Harrison Avenue NW and Kaiser Road SW
“The primary considerations for me were that it was identified as the best choice from a perspective of sustainability and urban planning,” said Commissioner Menser. “It’s also a historic opportunity to partner with the City of Olympia, consolidate services, and create efficiencies for our citizens. I believe the fact that the transit score is the highest, with three different bus lines that already access the site, makes it more accessible to people who use the courthouse.”
Vice-Chair Edwards stated, “We don’t have three good choices; we have three choices and we have to pick one that is most likely to pass voter scrutiny and provide the facilities we need. We do definitely need a new courthouse. It was a mistake when it was built here and I’m afraid I have to compound that mistake only because I do not agree with the downtown site or the Harrison site.”
The County anticipates bringing the completed proposal to the citizens for a vote during an August 2019 special election.
“We have a tremendous, and extremely unique opportunity and responsibility for a selection site of a new courthouse,” said Hutchings. “We have responsibility to our employees’ safety, to our citizens who use this facility – their safety and convenience – and to our community at large and the City of Olympia. This is a generational decision, affecting generations down the road, and it’s historic. I take that very seriously.”