Custer County Breaks Ground on New High Tech Courthouse

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BROKEN BOW, Neb. -- According to the Nebraska State Historical Society the Custer County Courthouse was finished being built in 1912. Now, 102 years later the county is looking to build again.

Custer County will be spending $2.3 million on a new 17,000 square foot judicial building, but where the money comes from is still up in the air.

"The Supervisors are working with us on a lease back process for that. They could look at that in many different ways, they could choose to bond that and fund it in many different ways," said Melissa Garcia, the president of the Custer Economic Development Corporation.

But whatever the Custer County supervisors decide, the state government agreed that the money must be spent.

"If you can't invest in your courthouse and you can't invest in just, then you are not going to be a county that keeps up in the 21st century so this is a tremendous investment in the future and one that we are especially proud of," said Mike Heavican, the Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court.

And the county felt it had no choice but to build a new one.

Garcia said, "With the court system being on the third floor there was some accessibility issues. Getting elderly and handicapped folks up up to three flights of stairs in a historical building caused issues. And just spacing, having a place where you could privately meet with your client, and then the security piece. The same entry way that you and would go to license our vehicle is the same entry way that prisoners were being transported and so as we look at the safety and security of all of our residents, we wanted to address those issues."

Governor Dave Heineman was on hand for the ground breaking ceremony saying the ideas this new building brings will take Nebraska law practice into the future.

The Governor said, "You need up to date technology so that everyone can have access in a speedy and expeditious manner and that's what we're going to do here."

According to the CEDC, in the summer of 2015, when the project is completed, all of the offices on the third floor of the historic courthouse will be moved to the new building on Custer Campus.

Garcia said, "It will house our courtrooms but then it will also be mediation rooms, meeting rooms, just rooms with technology and services for people to use. Also high tech technology so that really the court system can happen anywhere in the world, but from right here. In addition to that, the county attorney's office will be moved out here as well as the probation offices."

The historic building will still house county offices, so the community will not be losing the old facility.

This wasn't just a Broken Bow or Custer County project, state government was involved as well. And the state believes this new building could be the first of many in Nebraska.

"A lot of our courthouses around the state are about 100 years old and many of them have been kept up very well, others not so much," said Chief Justice Heavican.

Governor Heineman added, "I think this is a great model for everyone to follow. A new judicial center with local and state partners working together. And then I think surrounding communities will see the value of working with this new judicial center too."

According to Garcia, talks about the new building took a year and a half because the county supervisors couldn't decide between several good locations for the new facility.