The village corporation secured the 15-year, $294,300 per year lease agreement with the state, and will build a bigger courthouse by next year.
By the summer of 2015, the state of Alaska says Dillingham will have a new courthouse building, and it doesn't look like the new one will be downtown. KDLG’s Dave Bendinger has more:
Choggiung Ltd. has held the Dillingham courthouse lease for some 33 years, using its facility downtown.
But the state says the court in Dillingham has outgrown what that current building can provide, and wants to move into a facility with more space and improved security. Last fall the court system solicited bids for a very attractive 15 year lease agreement, which included provisions for the new building.
Only two bids were received for the $294,300 per year contract; one from a developer from southeast, and the other from Choggiung Ltd.
For a brief period of time, it seemed the other developer would win the bid, but Choggiung Ltd was able to prove to the state that it had better available land, and could better meet the local needs of the court as its landlord.
In January the state confirmed that the lucrative contract would stay in the hands of the village corporation for Dillingham, Ekuk, and Portage Creek.
"We are so pleased that CIC has secured the contract to build the new courthouse building," said Choggiung Investment Corporation chairwoman Olga Kropoff. "The facility will be a great addition to the community and to the region as a whole."
Kropoff said the corporation is also excited to offer good-paying jobs to shareholders during construction.
The annual lease amount of $294,300 is up from the current $135,000 lease. Similar courthouse leases are typically raised to adjust for inflation and higher costs, according to the state. But this increase is also meant to provide ample means to finance building the new facility.
Choggiung Ltd. plans to construct on corporation lands behind the Catholic church in Dillingham, in the area known as the Mission Subdivision. But the corporation is looking at other possibilities ahead of the agreed-upon construction dates.
"The groundbreaking will start this June, and we have a target of completing construction by next spring, and hopefully moving in by June," said Kropoff.
Amongst other changes, the state wants both of the two courtrooms to be at least 1,000 square feet in size. That will be a noticeable increase for courtroom "B," which is often overcrowded during routine hearings and arraignments.
The new courthouse will also have comfortable seating for up to 80 people to better handle jury selection days, and some 60 parking spots for jurors in addition to the ten spots for permanent staff.
Upgraded security measures for staff work spaces and the defendants' holding cell are also to be included.
Choggiung Ltd. said it is considering future options for the current courthouse building when it goes vacant next year, but no intended uses or tenants have been settled upon.
(A Taco Bell perhaps? That's the unanimous verdict from the jury at KDLG.)