Trends Summer 2011 | Page 3

according to Gene Simon, who has donated his understanding of construction and building repair to the County since 1994. He was chairman of the County Board when Ayres Associates completed a study of the County’s facility needs about 10 years ago. “That brought us to a somewhat startling realization that a three-phase building program was the solution,” Simon said. The first phase relieved courthouse crowding by constructing a new office building for all non-court functions. The nearly 50,000-square-foot, two-story building houses county government offices, county board space, and land use offices. The second phase focused on the jail, with remodeling and a 27,000-square-foot addition that improved prisoner intake, booking, visiting, kitchen and laundry, and administration areas. The facility now has a 132-bed jail “pod” designed for safety and efficiency and an additional 50 beds in the Huber dorm. Ayres Associates worked with Lincoln County on both buildings; the combined cost of the two projects was approximately $14.5 million. The third phase – updating the historic courthouse – was much more involved. The topic became highly controversial, reflecting area residents’ feelings about the building. “The Lincoln County Courthouse is the symbol of the City of Merrill,” Simon said. “The Chamber of Commerce and several businesses use a photo or drawing of the building as an advertisement or logo. It is an impressive structure for a small valley town. It is visible from the Highway 51 freeway and greets travelers at the heart of the Merrill center-city business district.” The 9th Judicial District, however, had to emphasize the function of the space rather than its historic or aesthetic appeal, District Court Administrator Susan Byrnes recalled. “There needed to be a separation between secure detainee movement, secure employee space, and public space,” she said. The two courtrooms were on the second floor on opposite sides of the building, said Bob Brown, an Ayres Associates senior architect who served as project manager of all three building phases. “Law enforcement would escort detainees from the jail across the street through the public entryway into the building, and they’d sit on a bench in the public area, overlooking the rotunda, waiting to go into court,” he said. “It was not a safe, secure arrangement.” The building was not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and seating for jury members was uncomfortable, Byrnes said. The addition to the Lincoln County Courthouse was designed to match the lines of the historic building. Interior remodeling was completed with attention to preserving the original structure as much as possible. TRENDS │3