Posted Thursday, July 25th, 2019
The Morris County Board of Freeholders last night unanimously approved a request for proposals to seek professional engineering services for the preliminary and final designs of a Morris County Courthouse expansion.
The RFP calls for the design of a secure criminal court facility with up to eight courtrooms that would be attached to the County Administration and Records Building in Morristown.
The proposed building would be located on the site of a county owned open-air parking lot off Schuyler Place, and would not require the taking of any property off the Morristown tax rolls.
A decision to approve a request for proposals came after a coordinated and thorough review process by a team that included the county government administration, freeholders, the judiciary, and the Sheriff’s Office.
The process included extensive meetings, site tours, and consideration of numerous alternatives, with a focus on public safety security, accessibility and functionality, and the potential for future expansion, should the need arise.
The Board of Freeholders, in agreeing to move forward with the RFP, focused on balancing the obvious needs of the court system with the financial concerns of county taxpayers in mind in seeking an acceptable option — one that is in the lower end of the cost range.
The process includes several key decision points for the Freeholder Board, which will continue to seek input from various stakeholders and county residents.
In anticipation of the need for a courthouse project, the Freeholder Board in late 2018, by a unanimous vote following a public hearing process, adopted two capital ordinances to fund the design.
Providing adequate court facilities and securing those facilities are the sole responsibility of each respective county in New Jersey. To assess those needs, a previous Freeholder Board in 2017 commissioned a Space Needs and Facilities Assessment pertaining to the judiciary and county government.
That assessment, completed in 2018, identified a significant shortfall in criminal, family and civil court facilities, and detailed the outdated conditions in the existing courthouse complex. The recommendation of the report was to construct a new criminal courthouse.
The freeholders last month, at a public meeting, scrutinized the Space Needs and Facilities Assessment with representatives of their consulting firm, Dewberry, to assess potential alternatives and the potential cost of the project.
You can review the report and other information pertaining to the courthouse project by visiting https://morriscountynj.gov/. Read or download the summary and the full report at https://morriscountynj.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/SpaceStudy-Final.pdf
Over the past year, officials from the Morris County courts, law enforcement, engineering and public safety have made presentations on the courthouse issue. You can view the presentation at https://morriscountynj.gov/courthouse2019/
Important note: The proposed project would not have any adverse impact on the historic, original portion of the county courthouse.
In Morris County, the county government, the state courts, and related nonprofit organizations currently operate from the Morris County Courthouse, the Morris County Administration and Records Building, and the Schuyler Annex Building in downtown Morristown, with additional state‐level court services housed in leased space.
Over time, as the needs of the county and the state have grown, so has the need for more secure and accessible facilities from which to operate. Morris County has attempted to meet these needs on a project-by-project basis, utilizing available facilities and space in the most efficient manner possible.
In late 2016, it became apparent that an analysis of existing available space was needed, coupled with a comprehensive and long‐term examination and evaluation of current and future space needs. In early 2017, Morris County retained a team of consultants led by consulting firm Dewberry to undertake this needs assessment and master planning effort.
The study was scoped with addressing the capital facility needs of Morris County for both county government and state court functions, looking at least 20 years into the future, and developing a capital facility master plan level strategy to meet those needs.
Following months of data gathering, interviews with key officials and stakeholders, in‐depth analyses, and development and evaluation of optional solutions, several key findings emerged that defined the recommended solution.