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Floor drops out of courthouse plans

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With new design, building will be two stories but family court will remain

By John Whitlock

A slightly shorter version of the new Owen County Courthouse was unveiled Monday.

Under the new design, the proposed family courtroom will remain but the second floor of the building will be removed.

The change was necessary after the state’s Court Facilities Standards Committee rejected the three-story design and directed the county to remove  6,500 square feet from the project.

The state follows guidelines established for courthouses serving similar demographics across the country.

Without the approval of the committee, the $12 million project could not move forward.

Monday, the local committee overseeing the planning and design met to discuss the changes.

Todd Ott of CMW Inc., the architectural firm in Lexington that designed the proposed courthouse, said nearly all the elements of the initial design remains with the exception of the second floor which would have housed a proposed Owen County family court.

Under the new design, the family court, which the county is still waiting to be approved, would be housed on the same floor as the circuit courtroom.

Although Owen Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bates pointed out the need for separate male and female holding cells on the second floor, the design met with approval from the committee.

Because the building will now be only two stories, Ott said it gives the county the opportunity to include more energy efficient elements in hopes of securing a coveted LEED “silver” designation.

LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design designation is given to buildings that excel in using sustainable green building and development practices.

Ott said Owen County could be the first rural courthouse to achieve this designation.

“This is a chance to add even more energy-efficient elements,” Ott said. “Normally, we would consider the most energy efficient practices but with this change, we can even do more.”

One significant change that is under consideration is using geothermal energy to heat and cool the building.