Heidi Shaffer, Published November 06 2010
Fargo Municipal Court site ready to roll
After a six-month, $1.3 million renovation of the city-owned building, the court will be open for business on Monday at 402 NP Ave., four blocks south of the previous location.
The building hasn’t changed significantly on the outside, but everything inside looks “just first-class,” said Judge Thomas Davies.
The new facility will help solve space issues for both the court and downtown police headquarters, but the biggest change is the overall appearance, Davies said.
“I didn’t realize it before, but the appearance of the courtroom makes a big difference,” he said.
City prosecutor offices are now located at the court, freeing up the space they previously occupied in the police station and making interaction between clients and attorneys easier, Davies said.
Police vehicles will also be stored at the new court facility in an area next to the ground transportation center on NP Avenue.
Inside, the new location offers more than 8,000 square feet – compared to 6,000 at the previous site – and includes a second hearing room.
The larger main courtroom will better accommodate the sometimes more than 60 people who come in for arraignments on a single afternoon, said Clerk of Court Sue Thompson.
Parking problems at the 414 4th Ave. N. location may ease up at the new site, Davies said.
A lack of parking often led to people being towed from privately owned lots while attending court hearings, he said.
The new court has more on-street parking around the building, and spaces in an underground, city-owned lot just south of NP Avenue are available at an hourly rate, he said.
The city is also considering changing the current 90-minute parking limit on both sides of NP Avenue to two hours to accommodate those with longer hearings.
For those without a vehicle, having the courts located adjacent to the public transportation center will make not having a ride less of an excuse, Davies said.
“They better use that on another judge at some other courtroom,” he said. “I’m just going to say, ‘Buy some bus tickets.’ ”
The city received a $200,000 federal grant to update electrical work and make it more energy-efficient, said City Administrator Pat Zavoral.
Fargo was leasing the previous site, and moving to a city-owned building will allow the city to recoup money from the renovation over time, he said.
The new court was designed to serve into the future, with expandable space for staff operations and for jury trials if they are ever required for a municipal court.
“It will give us the ability to operate there for years to come,” Zavoral said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511