Early design of Lincoln County Courthouse expansion released
Here's everything to know about what Lincoln County’s courthouse expansion could look like and what the 40-plus-acre campus is expected to include.
CANTON, S.D. — Initial designs of the Lincoln County Courthouse expansion were released this week, to which both the Lincoln County Commission and members of the public shared their elation.
Architects and staffers from Tegra, DLR, JLG and Henry Carlson Construction held a public informational meeting with the Lincoln County Commission to provide a status update on the proposed criminal justice center.
The design boasts a three-story structure that is designed to keep detainees away from county employees and the public as much as possible, featuring separate entrances for building users, court services employees and those in custody.
The building also features flexible spaces to accommodate future needs, providing the county the option to convert various work spaces into additional courtrooms should it become necessary.
Though architects made clear that changes are expected, here’s everything to know about the project, as of Tuesday:
Where, when and how much?
The expansion will lie across three different parcels on a combined 50-acre spread on Canton’s west end.
More than 40 acres of that land has already been acquired by the county, with just over 20 acres coming from Minnesota-based CHS and roughly 20 more purchased from Dawn and Jeffrey Kroger in a deal that closed on Friday, April 28. The third parcel, about 10 acres in size, has not yet been acquired from landowners Doug and Sherry McKenney.
The three plots of land run along North West Avenue to the east and U.S. Highway 18 to the south, with approximately 10 acres abutting the intersection of those roads remaining under private ownership.
The building remains in the planning stages, and the drawings provided by architects on Tuesday are subject to revision based on feedback from the public and other county officials.
According to Lynn Remmers, of JLG Architects, the designs presented will continue to be tweaked and fine-tuned until about July, when the commission will be asked to give final approval on the plans. By October, she expects to have an updated estimate on design development pricing, with construction sketching beginning in November.
Cost estimates are not currently available for the project, as bid results for construction are expected to be announced in March 2024. If approved, Dick Strassburg, of Tegra, said ground could break that spring.
What will the grounds look like?
The physical campus of the expansion plans for the actual structure to sit in the center of the two 20-acre lots, with a roadway and parking lots looping around most of the combined 40 acres.
Two large parking lots for the public will be south of the building. Staff parking lots would lie to the east and northwest of the building with a service lot to the west and a sally port abutting the north side.
In an effort to keep staff and public traffic separate on the property, public users will be directed to the front parking lot with easy access to the courthouse’s main entrance, while staff will park around the building and use dedicated entrances for easier access to their office spaces.
The service lot is offset from the building in an effort to preserve space for an already-expected expansion to the building to house the sheriff’s office and any necessary jail space, which currently sits in the existing courthouse’s basement.
According to Todd Orr, of DLR, the expected acquisition of the 10-acre lot along U.S. 18 would provide another access point. Assuming it’s acquired by the county, he planned to create an access road to the public lots through that plot, as well.
Chad Skiles, a citizen-member of the county’s courthouse expansion committee, said he’s had multiple conversations with landowners adjacent to the 10-acre plot that are opposed to the access road, citing traffic concerns. He asked planners and the commission to consider avoiding use of that plot.
What will the inside look like?
As part of his presentation, Orr provided a floor-by-floor look at the plans, which he noted has plenty of mixed-use spaces that could be converted based on the county’s needs.
Immediately inside the building, public users will be met with an expanded security area. Similar to the screening processes already in place at the existing courthouse, patrons will have a larger area to wait inside, Orr said, to avoid visitors queuing in a line that stretches outside.
The first floor will feature a wide variety of court services. Starting on the building’s east end and moving west lies the clerk of court’s office with a walk-up counter and offices for court services employees.
In the floor’s center is a large arraignment courtroom. Farther down the hall is a large jury trial room with a deliberation room and attorney’s workspace nearby. Behind the scenes is a secure access area where law enforcement can transport and hold detainees awaiting their hearing in a “hardened holding area.” The secure access area will be separated from the rest of the courthouse by cement walls, as opposed to drywall, Orr said.
The secure area also includes a shower and changing room for sheriff’s office employees in case of an exposure to bodily fluids.
The second floor is mostly composed of courtrooms, featuring two large courtrooms on the west end and two smaller hearing rooms on the east end. In between them is a mixed-use space that Orr said is planned to be used for a courtroom, but could be changed based on need.
The remainder of the floor is composed of jury deliberation rooms, attorney workspaces, miscellaneous offices and other multipurpose rooms.
The third floor is where Orr said most of the space remains undedicated, and where architects provided two different options for the floor plan.
In one option, referred to as the “state’s attorney build-out,” the east half of the floor would be used for offices and conference rooms needed for prosecutors, with the entire west half reserved for whatever else may be needed.
The other plan — called the “state’s attorney and court expansion” — would include significantly more space for prosecutors to work and add two large courtrooms to the west end.
The second version follows the same layout as the first, making it easy to expand in the future, should more courtrooms be necessary.
What if the entire building needs expansion?
As South Dakota’s third largest county, the population of Lincoln County grew by 45% between the 2010 and 2020 census, more than doubling the rate at which Minnehaha County grew. As a county’s population grows, so does the need for services.
Though the plan adds more room to the secure area as well as a potential jail site, commissioners wanted to know what might happen if more expansions are needed.
Architects say that future needs were already taken into account, and that necessary expansions should be easy to tack on. Orr said the plans for the building would make it easy to expand to the east, where an employee lot is offset from the building, as existing hallways, stairwells and utility infrastructure were designed with that possibility in mind.
The commissioners all agreed that looking into the future is necessary to do now to avoid problems down the road.
“The commissions that will be sitting here in the future will be adding on to this building,” Commissioner Jim Schmidt said. “Fortunately, it will be providing the space and hopefully the groundwork for that to happen.”
What feedback was given to architects?
County officials and members of the public alike relayed their many thanks and even excitement to the architects for the presentation.
“I want to thank the commission, Chair (Tiffani) Landeen and everyone whose done so much work on this," Skiles said. "This team, wow. It’s all I can say. Thank you for what you guys have done putting this all together. I think we’re at a really good spot, and I’m so excited.”
Another citizen echoed Skiles’ words.
Second Circuit Presiding Judge Robin Houwman thanked the architects for valuing her input regarding the needs of the court.
“The plans I’ve seen today, I actually haven't seen them prior to today,” she said. “They’ve incorporated a number of elements that we spoke on last week, and I’m really pleased with what we’re hearing about today.”
And Dave Derry, of Henry Carlson Construction, touted the teamwork that went into successfully producing the designs.
“Input from ownership, from judges, along with best practices from the design team has created what you're looking at,” he said.
The group of architects expect to return to the Lincoln County Commission for their next update on June 27.