County Plans New Courthouse

November 4, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — County commissioners will likely agree next week to buy six acres of land along the East Beltline for a new courthouse.

The property, just north of Four Mile Road, would become a new home to a 63rd District Court facility and would replace the court’s existing location at 105 Maple in Rockford. The asking price for the land is $1.08 million, the appraised figure, plus closing costs.

The county’s Finance Committee approved up to $1.2 million for the purchase last week, money that will come from the Capital Improvement Fund. The new site is situated in the middle of the court’s service area.

“I think this is a fantastic opportunity for us,” said Commissioner Dean Agee. “The Rockford facility is clearly inadequate.”

A building task force created two years ago by Commission Chairman David Morren reported that the East Beltline land offers enough room for the court to grow and allows for the consolidation of other county services in the new building — possibly even bringing the second District Court location in Cascade Township there. The report also stated that there isn’t enough space to expand at the current site.

Commissioner Fritz Wahlfield, who chaired the task force, said the current courthouse is so cramped that defendants and witnesses have to sit side-by-side before trials.

“If you think that’s the right way to do business, you’re wrong,” said Wahlfield.

The county leases a building at 649 Kenmoor in Cascade Township for the district court’s second location, but owns the building in Rockford. If commissioners approve the sale at the Nov. 17 meeting, Kent plans to sell the Rockford property.

“The city of Rockford has expressed interest in it,” said Daryl Delabbio, administrator and controller for Kent County.

The county looked at another site on Knapp Street for the district court, property that is owned by Grand Rapids Township. But the task force and Finance Committee decided on the East Beltline parcel because all the location’s costs are known, while the task force said the same couldn’t be said for the site on Knapp Street.

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