Nevada Sen. Goicoechea offers bill for new Ely courthouse
With plans and cost estimates in hand, Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, will renew his pitch this legislative session to have the state help build a new courthouse in White Pine County.
Goicoechea has been pushing for the project for more than a decade since the Nevada Commission on Rural Courts identified serious security flaws with the existing courthouse that was built in Ely in 1906.
He has repeatedly argued the existing courthouse is dangerous, a problem caused by the fact the vast majority of criminal matters heard in Ely involve inmates from the nearby state prison, Nevada’s maximum security prison. The jury box is just a couple of feet from the witness box and there’s only one elevator that must handle not only judges and witnesses but inmates and jurors.
In addition, the existing courthouse is in close proximity to residences, a middle school and the county library.
“Not only is the site location unacceptable, the facility will never meet minimum security standards,” according to the report on the need for a new structure.
That report says the facility should no longer be used for any court matters, civil or criminal.
Goicoechea said his bill will provide $10 million General Fund cash to build the new courthouse. The project will take an estimated 16 months if approved.
The courthouse itself is projected at $19.5 million and the jail/public safety complex another $10.2 million. There are also some $4.7 million in non-construction costs for a total estimated cost of $34.4 million.
Goicoechea said not one state dollar would go to the jail construction and public safety remodel for the sheriff’s facility.
The goal is to provide a secure courthouse to meet national security standards and “separate inmate traffic from employees and the public.”
In addition, priority would be given to construction of the courthouse that will take about 16 months. The jail and public safety complex would be built after the courthouse.
Goicoechea has presented his proposal every session since 2003 but it has never been funded. He said he hopes to get Gov. Steve Sisolak to back the plan.