The Las Vegas City Council threw unanimous support Wednesday behind a plan to spend up to $56 million on a new downtown municipal courthouse.
The council approved a nonbinding project term sheet with The Molasky Group of Companies to develop a courthouse on nearly an acre on Clark Avenue near City Hall and the Regional Justice Center, where the city’s municipal courts are currently housed.
But council discussion included concerns about future growth and indicated the building could grow beyond the proposed 139,431-square-foot courthouse.
“It would be hard to look back and we didn’t prepare enough for the growth and the caseload and the specialty courts,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said. “It seems we’re forever saying ‘why didn’t we do this? We need more space.’”
Adding a floor to the current building would allow for more courtroom space, and would be cheaper than expanding the building to the west when the need arises, Molasky officials said.
“Is it smarter to spend more money now, to shell out more now?” Councilman Bob Coffin asked. “The town is not going to get any smaller. Crime isn’t going to stop.”
It wasn’t immediately clear how much the courthouse price tag would grow if the building size increases, but the council must also approve a project development agreement for the work to proceed.
The current courthouse includes 30 on-site parking spaces. Additional parking will be available at the city’s Main Street garage, roughly a block west of the proposed courthouse site.
The council also unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with Clark County that provides for the county buying the city out of its lease at the Regional Justice Center, to pave the way for the new courthouse.
Councilman Stavros Anthony called the run at the Regional Justice Center, which kicked off with cost overruns and delays, a “rough patch.”
“I’m kind of glad we’re getting out of there,” Anthony said.
The city will fund the project in part using dollars from the county buying the city out of its lease at the RJC, and issue bonds to finance the remainder of the project. The new courthouse is slated to be finished by Jan. 4, 2021.
As part of the deal with the county, city officials agreed for the next decade to not attempt annexation of 1,000 acres of unincorporated county land that sits within the city’s bounds, unless property owners pursue annexation.
Las Vegas officials faced significant pushback this year when they sought to absorb 872 acres of unincorporated county land, and the effort ultimately failed.
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City of Las Vegas/Clark County interlocal agreement
• Clark County will pay the city a $23.5 million down payment and four $1.35 million installments between 2021 and 2024 to buy the city out of its lease at the Regional Justice Center.
• The city’s municipal courts would vacate the RJC by July 1, 2021, if the new municipal courthouse is completed by then. Otherwise, the city could continue to lease its space there for $189,748 monthly for another year. If the Las Vegas Municipal Courts aren’t out of the RJC by June 30, 2022, the city will owe the county $569,244 monthly for each month it continues to occupy space there.
• City officials agree not to annex roughly 1,000 acres of unincorporated Clark County land within city boundaries, unless property owners there want their property to be annexed into the city. Included in that area is 872 acres the city tried and failed to annex earlier this year. Roughly 8,900 acres of “county islands” exist inside Las Vegas city bounds.
• Clark County officials agree not to spearhead any new annexation legislation unless city officials agree.