The Whitman County Commissioners are still waiting for word from Pullman city officials about the future of its district court location and there may be some disagreement over how much the city is asking the county to pay.
As the city transitions into its new city hall at the former Encounter Ministries property on Southeast Crestview Street, it has been scrambling to find a home for District Court proceedings.
Whitman County District Court has been held at the current city hall for decades and currently operates twice a week. However, city staff determined there was not enough space for the court in the new city hall. The church building renovation is being paid for by a 20-year, $10.5 million bond, approved by voters last year.
Earlier this year, the city discussed keeping district court in its current city hall building for two years after city services move to the new city hall location.
Gary Petrovich, county administrative director, said following previous meetings with City Attorney Laura McAloon, the city proposed the county pay for half the cost of the building’s maintenance and pay the utility bills since the county would be the only tenant in the building.
Petrovich said he felt the county would be unwilling to agree to that deal.
“If we weren’t going to get any future benefit from the sale of that building because we would be part owner, then, basically, I didn’t think the commissioners would approve that kind of deal,” he said. “In fact, I told (McAloon) I thought that would be a deal breaker.”
Petrovich said he recently received an email from the city stating the Pullman City Council would hold an executive session during today’s city council meeting to discuss its plan for district court.
Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson confirmed it will be part of the executive session discussion.
Petrovich said he is awaiting a written proposal from the city about its plans.
City Supervisor Adam Lincoln was unable to be reached for comment Monday.
Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy said he asked the city to decide where it wants to locate district court by July 1, given that the lease between the city and the county for the current district court space must be renewed at the end of August.
Tracy said the law states the city must pay the county for the costs of processing misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors, and one of those costs is for the space to process those charges in Pullman.
“The county can’t just wave a wand and say they don’t have to pay,” he said.
If the county and the city cannot reach an agreement, an independent arbitration panel could help both sides reach a deal, Tracy said.
The earliest the commissioners could take action is July 1. Commissioner Art Swannack said he is waiting on Pullman to tell the county what it wants to do.
“The biggest issue that I see we have is where are we going to have court next year?” he said.
Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to email@example.com.