Ada County Courthouse Too Small?

Ada County Assessor Bob McQuade is looking forward to improving public access to his office when it moves out of the court house, but the GUARDIAN’s radar went on high alert when we got the tip.
Seems the new Ada court house on Front Street is just too small to house all the agencies currently residing there. The Development Services will be moving to the “Meridian Campus” one of these days and the Assessor will take up quarters next to the existing Courthouse.

The Meridian Campus currently has an ambulance station and the weed and skeeter agencies. They will also have a branch of the Assessor’s office. It is at 975 E. Pine near Locust Grove with easy access from the new Locust Grove overpass.

These “evictions,” combined with the recent remodeling of the empty space on the first floor of the courthouse, (retail space which was supposed to help make lease payments) has us really concerned about how things are being handled. Do they need to kick agencies out of the court house even after taking over the ground floor space on either side of the entrance?

The courthouse was built, and financing was arranged by previous commissioners without voter approval. It is nearly impossible to determine who owns what at the court house, but we think it is owned by the city of Boise’s urban renewal agency–CCDC (Capital City Development Corp). They lease it to a private outfit known as Civic Partners to get around paying property taxes. Civic partners in turn subleases it to the county. The underlying land is owned by the county.

It is a highly irregular financial scheme that was created to get around the voters and the Idaho Constitution. We understand the agreement is more than 400 pages in length.

Unless someone can show us otherwise, we think the Assessor will be moving into a private building and Ada taxpayers will be paying rent for space in a building that has been unable to rent vacant space…BAILOUT?

Let’s hope were are witnessing a rental “bailout” of sorts and not another lease-purchase agreement that obligates taxpayers or even an outright purchase using accumulated cash.

The deal just doesn’t sound right and based on the shady history of the court house and University Place–all on the same parcel of land–the mainstream media needs to start digging.

Any way you look at it, Ada County Government is bigger than it’s current crib.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Newsy at the County
    Aug 20, 2007, 1:40 am

    “Highly irregular financial schemes” – – – this is the norm for both Ada County and Boise City. If you are a developer in Boise you can even ask the city (via the CCDC) to provide you with parking spaces when your project has no ability to have any PARKING spaces WHAT SO EVER!!! So now we have the CCD financing parking for developers – AGAIN!

    Just like those Crescent Rim Condo project sales have that have come to a dead halt and even lost ground while the project is struggling getting funding and only 1 building of 3 MAY be built. How do you say “the pit #2”? Would not be that devlopers first chapter 11 either if it happens

    The fact that the County has been unable to FIND A SINGLE RENTER for all the “quality retail space” that all the voters payed for is yet another scheme…like all the condo projects…sorry state….or is it just the “irregular state”.

  2. Grumy ole guy
    Aug 20, 2007, 2:02 am

    Well, turn me over, I am done! Is THIS an example of the excellence in planning that our county uses? I don’t really care a whole lot about the money, because I am very old and very jaded about the lengths to which these yahoos have gone to line their own pockets and those of their already well-to-do cronies; but the sheer ineptitude of their actions is overwhelming. Slimy, scuzzy, low-life pond scum! Damn it, why do we never DO anything about these travesties, do we really have the government we deserve? Good candidates can’t compete with the money that the good ole boys and girls produce to buy their way into office. Pah~ several poxes upon each of their houses! Begone foul creatures, begone!

  3. Barbara Syriac
    Aug 20, 2007, 6:20 am

    I like the idea of the assessor office moving to the ground floor retail space. I have always felt uneasy being searched and walking among the criminals just so I could register a vehicle or renew my drivers license. Then they did away with the drivers license section so you have to go all the way to the other side of town. I hope they bring back the drivers license part to the new office too.

    EDITOR NOTE–Barb, we don’t know what or who will be in that ground floor space. The assessor is moving to ANOTHER BUILDING–one which is apparently privately owned.

  4. There are several offices in the courthouse that are busting at the seams…the public defenders have attorneys sharing offices or parked in corners, etc…there’s no more room. Same with the prosecutors.

    And both agencies are hiring more attorneys. Courtrooms are at a premium. New judges are being hired due to caseloads and not employment vacancies. So, agencies expanding into the empty storefronts really isn’t that sinister…

  5. Where is the FACTUAL information about Development Services moving to Meridian? They are moving to an office immediately adjacent to the courthouse. This is to make more room for the courts. Also, that move is not being funded by taxpayers.

    EDITOR NOTE–Tex, you seem in the know. If the move is NOT funded by taxpayers, WHO is funding it?

    What happened to using the vacant space on the ground floor of the court house? Help us out.

  6. I will do any thing to stay away from the Ada County Building and from Barister. I have started going to Idaho City ( Boise County) to get my drivers license, and I register my cars there.

    No lines, no problem parking, no attitudes and a beautiful drive. And the same price.

    Why deal with the parking and attitudes in Boise?

  7. I only know so much…
    Their move, like the rest of their ENTIRE budget, is paid for by the department’s revenue.

    Development Services, supposedly, will be renovating the empty retail space under the parking garage/apartments for use of the new offices.

    To move their office to Meridian is an odd idea. The Development Services staff is dependent on GIS department, Assessor’s and Recorder’s office, Board of County Commissioners, the hearing rooms, etc… I guess I wonder where the statement about moving there came from, any reputable source?

  8. The County has used eminent domain to take over the retail space in the courthouse and neighboring buildings. In at least one case, they apparently paid more than fair market value. Despite the use of eminent domain to force a deal, it sure looks like a bailout of the developer.

    By using eminent domain, the County not only PAID for the retail facilities, but will now NOT receive the benefit of income from Civic Partners, the developers, who had faithfully been making payments to CCDC for use of the ground. These payments to CCDC had been used to offset part of the cost of the courthouse bonds, which will now shift to taxpayers. The County also plans to spend additional big bucks remodeling the retail space. It’s all very complicated, but the bottom line is that, once again, taxpayers get skewered.

    Development Services is scheduled to move out of the Courthouse and into either the neighboring retail space, or to Meridian. Given the downturn in housing starts in the local market, the folks in the Development Services department ought to be more worried about losing their jobs than moving to fancy new digs.

    Pretty much everyone, including me, agreed that a newer, larger courthouse was needed. But now that the move to the new courthouse has been made, some people there seem to think that they are entitled to more and more new space. The County has added hundreds of thousands of square feet of space in the past five or six years, and yet continues to expand its facilities.

    There are some service-oriented aspects of County government that must expand and add people when the population increases, such as EMS. Other jobs the County does, however, are made easier with technology. For example, record storage can be done digitally now, saving tons of space. The public should be able to access more services online, which would cut down on the need for additional facilities and waiting in long lines, as well.

    My point is twofold: 1) the County has enough space in the new courthouse and other facilities, if they would utilize it properly, and, 2) County spending continues to be out of control.

  9. Maybe that would deter future growth by having an office that is difficult to get to and in an area that is sprawled out with poor infrastructure planning.

  10. One of the reasons they have no more space left is that the righteous of this state bust everyone for every crime possible. My son got busted for smoking cigarettes near the Greenbelt. Actually he was with some other boys who were smoking cigarettes even though he says he was not partaking. He refuses to plead guilty because he still believes in justice. Most people just pay the fine rather than clog the court house. Regardless, our legal system (not justice) is having a heyday extracting money from so called crimes that in our day, parents and cops would handle with a reprimand and a phone call. But where is the profit in that?

  11. Thanks, Sharon, for your comments. Thanks to Dog Said for his comments.

    I am getting the same sick feeling about local government that I have about national government -that everything is about getting more money to the already wealthy, and treating the poor and middle class like we are criminals for just breathing and using public property. This is one reason why I rarely go to public events.

    Our country is going the way of fascism and I think our local government is in the front line of this movement.

    The way the county has obscured the ownership of what should be public property as a way to provide money to private entities is just criminal. I can’t believe the leadership in local government and watchdogs of government can continue to let this go on.

    Members of my family are already working on leaving this area for friendlier pastures. I may be just behind them, in spite of more than 50 years in Ada County.

    I worked for many years in the title insurance business and can’t for the life of me figure out how the ownership interests can be determined at the courthouse.

    It just makes me sick.

  12. How many of these guys worked for Enron?

    And why was the new courthouse complex so underplanned that it’s overfilled already? Did the planners have *no* idea that the county’s population would increase? How drunk and/or brain-dead were they?

    Or do the county agencies just look around the new building and say, Hey, we’ve got room for 100 more people in here, so let’s hire 500 more?
    The growth there makes no more sense than the legislators needing new wings on the Capitol for the same number of lawmakers we’ve had for many years.

    It’s said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Guess these folks (city, county, state) think they have absolute power! And it seems they’re right — they just keep on doin’ stuff with apparently no concern whatsoever for what the citizens want or need.

    EDITOR NOTE–I don’t recall who said, “Power corrupts and absolute power is really neat if you’re the one who has it.”

  13. The current county administration likes to claim that growth pays. If so, we are long overdue for a dividend check. Instead, we are being asked to pay even higher tax bills next year.

    According to the latest county budget, your next tax bill will go up about 7 percent. Depending on your individual living situation, expect to pay $50 to $250 more next year than you did this year.

    The increase will erase any benefit most people received from the shift of school funding away from property taxes. And, I venture to say that most people will be hard pressed to find any benefit from their higher tax bill. The money will, of course, go to fund ill-conceived projects such as this.

    It may not do any good, but you can at least have the pleasure of making them look you in the eye while they rip you off. The commissioners meet to approve the latest budget at 9:00 today in the ever-controversial Ada County Court House.

  14. Why wasn’t the courthouse built to accommodate current and future needs of the county? Wasn’t there enough “funding” to do it right the first time? What happened to the needs assessment(s)? Is this the public-private deal that was “sold” to the public?

  15. Now we see in today’s paper that Development Services is over-budget or underfunded. Apparently no one over there has been watching as the real estate market melted. Perhaps they won’t need new digs since they are not going to hire ten additional employees. Perhaps the new director should look at some developments that have been started but are now shut down. There certainly are plenty of them in Eagle.

  16. Treva- You’re a bit late on that news. The courts need the Development Services’ office space, which again is being funded by DS, not by taxpayers. Real estate markets go up and down, I’m sure they know it’s all cyclical. But additional staff is probably not needed, the previous Director handled things much differently and oversaw DS as if it was a private company.

    It’s not, there is a strict budget determined by applications, permits, and whatever fees are submitted. The Development Services staff still has to uphold the Ada County Code and Zoning Ordinance when dealing with an application, they don’t get to choose whether an application for development is submitted and they don’t make the final decision.

    Boise/Treasure Valley will still grow over the long run. The planners don’t just handle applications, but have work on revising the ordinance and Comp Plan. And applications for planned communities are still being submitted or considered, those take close 12-18 months for entitlement too.

  17. I should also add that the new office for Development Services, where ever it may be, has already been paid or budgeted for. The Director tried to see if that could have been put on hold, but it cannot.

  18. Development Services may be funding its enlarged office space but since they’re in the hole and borrowing from the County’s general fund, guess what? Taxpayers are funding this move.

    A move that doesn’t seem necessary now that 10 people will not be hired. If the money has just been budgeted, then unbudget it. If it’s been paid for, then an investigation needs to happen regarding why it was paid for in advance.

    I despair of ever seeing a government official care about the bottom line and maybe saving taxpayers some money.

    EDITOR NOTE–The Daily Paper also claims some of the planned community boys are behind in their payments…what does that tell us?

  19. Development Services is committed to the move, they don’t get much of a choice on the matter. It is the courts that need the room, not DS needing new office space. You have to pay to secure contracts; you part up front and the rest later. However, with any major project, you have to have the funding secured to pay the entire bill.

  20. Remember the old courthouse? The courts weren’t expanding every couple of months when they were in there!

    Have you been in the new courthouse and looked in the courtrooms? Much of the time, they are empty. It is time to better utilize the space that is already there and stop the costly expansion.

  21. In the building quite frequently. And the old courthouse didn’t house all the departments, did it? The County has grown a bit more and has to serve more people.

    I don’t disagree that space could be used more efficiently, but the Building Dept. and Boise City lawyers shouldn’t have to share office space either.

  22. Tex, you seem to be in the know. Does Boise City lawyers pay Ada County rent for their courthouse space? If there was any long range planning, DS wouldn’t have been allowed to spend, what $1.4 million within the past 1+/- years, then move to a new location.

  23. curious george
    Aug 24, 2007, 6:54 pm

    It appears that Development Services’ fate is just a minor wart on the larger butt of County Administration.

    Just because the department employs planners doesn’t mean that anyone in the department was consulted by County Administration before concocting this farce.

    And why would they?

    Why rely on staff with advanced degrees and professional experience in forecasting & planning – when (obviously) real expertise comes from selling Melalueca, running a five ‘n dime, and working for a city parks department.

    As an Ada County resident, I would like to call for an audit of how existing space is utilized. Along with a solid comparison analysis of similar county facilities in the US. Without either of these it is near impossible to assess how efficiently the county is using its existing resources.

    How much do you want to bet that neither effort has been done by County Administration?

    How many of you would like to have seen this done before the county opted to exercise Eminent Domain?

    What was the tune the Commissioners used at their State of the County Address, “Takin’ Care of Business”?

    How about taking care of county business for a change?

  24. Tex wrote: “In the building quite frequently. And the old courthouse didn’t house all the departments, did it? The County has grown a bit more and has to serve more people.”

    Correct. However, NOT including the Meridian campus or the retail space being taken through the use of eminent domain, the County has ALREADY ADDED about 200 thousand square feet of space. Enough is enough!

    Tex wrote: “I don’t disagree that space could be used more efficiently, but the Building Dept. and Boise City lawyers shouldn’t have to share office space either.”

    I didn’t know that they were sharing office space. Perhaps you will be kind enough to clarify your comment? When the new courthouse opened, Boise City approached Ada County, seeking a small amount of space in the courthouse in which to house their legal folks when they were working there. The two entities signed a lease agreement, the City paid to finish the then-unfinished space, and I haven’t heard that the agreement has been altered since that time.

    Murphy wrote, “If there was any long range planning, DS wouldn’t have been allowed to spend, what $1.4 million within the past 1+/- years, then move to a new location.”

    The cost of remodelling Development Services was a minimum of half a million dollars, although that might have gone up by the time the project was complete. I couldn’t agree with you more about the need for better long-range planning.

    Curious George wrote, “As an Ada County resident, I would like to call for an audit of how existing space is utilized.”

    I believe there were claims that an audit was done. If it did not report that the commissioners’ individual offices (which grew by a factor of perhaps four times when the County moved to the new digs) are significantly larger than necessary, figure the rest of it is questionable, at best, as well. It seems to me that oftentimes paid consultants find what they are “expected” to find, rather than what they ought to find.

  25. Blazing Saddle
    Aug 25, 2007, 10:00 am


    You got the bull by the horns. Yes sir! But, I think you are being a little coy with your question about taking care of business.

    Tex, that rascal of an insider, tells us that the county planners, are funded by the developers, “not by taxpayers”, and that they do all sorts of things, tinker with ordinances, revise the comp plan, and lord knows what all. That falls a little short of being news, but, like a trail of feathers leading from the chicken coop to the fox den, finding the culprits in this mess is as easy as following the money trail.

    In this hand’s estmation, before we can expect anything better out of the county, DS and a few other calves need to be weined from special interest group teets.

  26. Clippityclop
    Aug 25, 2007, 5:23 pm

    I could not agree with you more about special interest group teet weaning, and it needs to happen pronto, no matter how much Ada County Development Services bawls for the good ol’ days of developer grease. As a taxpayer, I would rather pay for ACDS to do their job and evaluate applications objectively and legally than have them be funded by developers and behave as the developers’ advocate and cheerleader, no matter how incomplete a development application is. At least some members of P&Z are fed up with this as well… though some have already been castrated, vaccinated and ear-tagged. Time to cull the herd, yes?

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