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DOWNTOWN COURTHOUSE
Chamber, EDC support courthouse renovation

By Tracy Overstreet
The Grand Island Independent

The Grand Island Area Economic Development Corp. (EDC) and the Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce both went on record Tuesday in favor of an addition to the existing Hall County Courthouse.

Both groups opposed building a new courthouse at another location.

“ … moving the courthouse out of downtown would be an economic train wreck,” EDC President Randy Gard told the Hall County board Tuesday. “Doing the right thing is renovation and expansion at the current location.”

The courthouse issue was not on the county board’s meeting agenda Tuesday, but Gard and chamber board member Terry Pfeifer were allowed to speak about the courthouse under the county’s “public participation” item on the agenda.

Supervisors had planned to talk about the courthouse during a 6 p.m. public meeting Tuesday at Grand Island City Hall, but that meeting was postponed due to severe weather concerns.

Hall County board Chairman Bob McFarland said the courthouse meeting will be rescheduled and he will inform the public of the date, time and place.

At that meeting, the board planned to detail the two options it has been studying to add five courtrooms in a new addition and to convert two existing county courtrooms into a combined district courtroom on the second floor of the existing courthouse.

The options are called B-1, an addition directly onto the east side of the existing 1904 courthouse, and B-3, an addition in the south parking lot that would be connected to the courthouse via a corridor.

In the midst of previous discussions, Supervisor Steve Schuppan raised questions about the cost of new construction and suggested it may be money better spent to move the entire courthouse function to land the county owns east of town at the county jail site.

The idea raised concerns among the Hall County legal community and the Hall County Historical Society, both of which were planning to be represented at the Tuesday evening meeting.

Pfeifer said courthouses are an integral part of every community’s history and heritage. Hall County’s courthouse has served the county well for the past 110 years.

“The building itself is a symbol and landmark, not only because of its awesome architecture, but for what happens within its walls,” Pfeifer told supervisors Tuesday morning. “It is truly a ‘court’ house — the seat of justice where judges, prosecutors, court staff and others protect our liberties and provide for the public safety.”

Pfeifer said he proudly looks out at the view of the courthouse from his downtown office and hopes it won’t change to a view of the “old courthouse.”

“Moving the judicial function from the courthouse is, in fact, taking ‘court’ out of the courthouse,” Pfeifer said. “It would remove the heart from the most important symbol of our county.”

The supervisors had no reaction to Gard’s and Pfeifer’s testimony.

Click to view original article on The Independent website.

Pfeifer’s letter to Hall County Board of Supervisors

June 3, 2014 

I am Terry Pfeifer, a Board member of the Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce. 

I am here on behalf of our board and our nearly 1,000 member businesses to express our support for the preservation, renovation, and addition to the existing Hall County Courthouse.  We believe that the Hall County Courthouse should be retained in downtown Grand Island and encourage the County Board of Supervisors to move ahead with development of a Government Circle, similar to what was studied and proposed in the mid-1990s.

Courthouses are an integral part of every community’s history and heritage.  Hall County has been served well by the Courthouse for the past 110 years.  The building itself is a symbol and landmark, not only because of its awesome architecture, but for what happens within its walls.  It is truly a “Court” house – - the seat of justice where Judges, Prosecutors, Court staff, and others protect our liberties and provide for the public safety.

We are challenged to understand why a government entity would move a building/function out of its home.  This very body fought vehemently the moving of the Veterans Home from its original location and rightly so.  A move would essentially unravel the community’s core – the government center so reflective of downtowns in cities across the nation.  Moving the Courthouse out of the “Original Town of Grand Island” would have a significant impact on the health and vitality of the downtown area.

Some months ago, Supervisor Quandt spent 64 hours on the cupola of the Courthouse in support of our country’s veterans.  The Courthouse was an appropriate symbolic location for the important statement that he was making. It would have meant far less if he were to have stood on the roof of the Law Enforcement Center or a new County office building.

Too often, nowadays, it seems the society we live in has a disposable mentality. The need to renovate the Courthouse, which was largely predicated on the need to replace the HVAC system and associated electrical and plumbing, should not drive relocation.

Although it has been suggested that a new Courthouse located on the east side of Grand Island could allow the current Courthouse to be renovated for other County office use, this option has not been sufficiently vetted — from a practical or financial perspective.  Regardless, moving the judicial function from the Courthouse is, in fact, taking “Court” out of the Courthouse.  It would remove the heart from the most important symbol of our county. This would chip away at a tradition, heritage, and culture that have been an integral part of the history of Hall County since our earliest days.

We urge the County Board to give serious consideration to option B1 as presented by architectural firms Dewberry and Cannon Moss Brygger.  They have developed a great planning solution considering functionality, design, cost, and heritage.

I have my office on the third floor of The Downtown Center building where I can look straight down Locust at the Courthouse, often seeing attorneys and their clients walking to and from the Courthouse.  Everyday I point out the view of the Courthouse as I bring clients into my office.  Please don’t make me change it to one that is of an empty Locust Street that leads to the “Old Courthouse”.

Sincerely,
Terry Pfeifer, Board Member
Chamber of Commerce

MAXIMIZING HUMAN CAPITAL

This spring, 67 business owners and leaders participated in the Chamber’s training session focusing on Maximizing Human Capital.  This training, provided at no charge to Chamber business partners, took place at College Park and was facilitated by Central Community College’s Training and Development Coordinator, Elizabeth Smith. Each attendee learned how to develop, engage, and retain talent in their business. Recognizing that the largest investment for any business is their employees (human capital), the sessions focused on how to grow talent internally for a long-term approach to assuring the right talent is in place for the future.

2014 ANNUAL MEETING

By Cindy Johnson, Chamber President

The theme of our Chamber Annual Meeting this year is “Growing Grand Island”.  Todd Johnson with Gallup will share insight as to the role entrepreneurs play in developing a community’s economy.  But the phrase is applicable to many initiatives underway in Grand Island.  Take, for instance, air service.

The Central Nebraska Regional Airport has been a key player in growing Grand Island for the last decade.  Once identified as a ‘need’ for economic growth and vitality for years, the Airport Authority Board and Executive Director Mike Olson have answered the call for reliable and affordable air service, and an airport that contributes to the economy.  The Central Nebraska Regional Airport offers services to businesses and residents that expand beyond recreational travel.  Business travel, both to and from Grand Island, is simplified with daily flights to Dallas and direct flights to Phoenix-Mesa and Las Vegas.  Shipments of goods and products arrive throughout the day and night ensuring business operations remain on schedule.  Activity associated with the storage, maintenance and repair of aircraft, fuel sales, and charter services also contribute to the economic activity and benefits provided by the Airport.

In 2013, the Airport set an all-time boarding record with 56,902 enplanements. With this level of activity, the need for additional parking was evident.  Last fall, 640 surface parking stalls were constructed.  Five side-by-side hangars will be constructed in 2014 as well to meet the demand for aircraft storage.

The next phase of infrastructure improvements at the Airport is set to begin this year.  A new 35,000 square foot terminal with geothermal energy for heating and cooling will be constructed.  A jet bridge is proposed so passengers can board without exposure to the elements.  Architectural renderings of the new passenger terminal, developed by airport consulting firm Mead and Hunt, will be available for public viewing on Wednesday, January 15 from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. at the Edith Abbott Memorial Library, 211 North Washington.  A formal presentation will be held at 5:15 p.m. The community is invited and welcome to attend, review the drawings, and offer feedback.

The new airport terminal will be an exciting gateway to Grand Island.  On behalf of the business community, thank you Central Nebraska Regional Airport for the role you play in ‘growing Grand Island’.