Courthouse remodel inspection leads to emergency shutdown

By JESSICA ROBINSON

The Big Horn County courthouse in Basin remains closed after a routine courthouse construction inspection on Thursday Aug. 8 prompted the closure.

“During a routine meeting of the courthouse remodel some concerns were identified that may or may not present an issue for the courthouse,” the county stated in a release to the public on Thursday. “As a precaution, the decision was made to close the courthouse until proper inspections take place.”

An impromptu meeting on Thursday with department heads and BHC Commission Chairman Felix Carrizales resulted in the courthouse being closed out of concern for the safety for the employees and the public. At the time, they expected inspections to start taking place on Monday and would meet on Tuesday to re-evaluate the situation.

The concern during the meeting on Thursday was trying to keep departments such as the clerk and treasurer’s office running during the closure. However, County Clerk Lori Smallwood said people would have to wait until Monday.

“This is a proactive measure that should be seen as a positive thing done by Big Horn County to ensure the safety of its citizens, not a reactionary thing,” Sheriff Ken Blackburn said during Thursday’s meeting. 

The county notified the community through the county website, Facebook and the Code Red system. 

Court hearings were cancelled for the afternoon that day. As for folks looking to get tags and license plates, the Park County Treasurer and Clerk’s office was able to accommodate them Friday and Monday.

As of Tuesday, Emergency Management Coordinator LaRae Dobbs said the courthouse is still closed pending inspection for the safety of the employees and the public. She said the inspections are currently underway. They are hoping the inspections will be complete this week.

Dobbs would not specify what caused the concern and prompted the closure, indicating that she’s been advised by the county attorney not to do so.  She said more information would be forthcoming.

Dobbs said there was a meeting with the county commissioners on Tuesday to discuss the current functionality for each department within the courthouse. Dobbs added they are prioritizing which ones need to be up and running first. She said that after the inspection, there would be more information on how each department operates. 

However, as of right now, each department at the courthouse is under essential functions only. 

The county attorney’s office is operating in Lovell. Essential services such as law enforcement and CARES are operating as well in different locations; these are accessible through their advertised numbers.

Courts are both functioning in limited locations. Dobbs said the courts are contacting those who are involved in cases.

As for other county departments, the phone numbers will be forwarded to answering services. 

Anyone in Big Horn County needing basic things such as renewals, license plates and tags can visit the Park County Treasurer’s office in Cody. Park County Treasurer Barb Poley said they are also in Powell at the Park County Annex on Monday. She added they could do new purchases as well as long as a lien hasn’t been filed in Big Horn County. Their office cannot do property taxes or record deeds.

Poley said if anyone has questions, they could call before they come over.

Dobbs hopes they will have more information later this week. Information they receive will be posted on the county website and Facebook page.