Snohomish Co. moves ahead with controversial courthouse plan

EVERETT, Wash. -- The Snohomish County Council moved forward with a controversial plan Wednesday to oust at least a half a dozen businesses in order to build a $162 million courthouse.

Everyone agrees that the 50-year-old Snohomish County Courthouse has to go. It has bad elevators, sketchy patchwork fixes and a shortage of space.

The problem is the cost -- and the consequences for local business owners.

On Wednesday, business owners like Brian Sullivan lashed out at the County Council over a vote to move forward with a new courthouse, which would be located across the street from the current facility.

"Where's this going to stop and who's going to pay for it?" said Sullivan, whose land is slated to be taken over using eminent domain.

Last month the Problem Solvers exposed the skyrocketing costs and questionable development of the project. It has more than doubled in cost and changed locations from existing county-owned land to private land. The new plan uses eminent domain to force out several longtime business owners.

"It's just foolhardy, foolish. Use the tunnel you have, use the footprint you have, use the $75 million that's already funded and let's get this project done," said Sullivan's wife, Melissa Sullivan.

Snohomish County chairman Dave Somers says the sticker shock is real, but the hope is that the new building will last 100 years.

"You really don't want to sink money trying to make this adequate," he said. "You can spend a lot of money and you'd still end up with a sub par courthouse."

Yet a Problem Solvers review found that the county failed to do basic research about ongoing costs, such as prisoner transfers and possible expansion. Those concerns were brushed aside and the council voted to start the eminent domain process on Sullivan and others.

The courthouse is coming, even with all the unanswered questions.

"If you don't know what the plan is that you're voting for, how can you vote yes?" said Melissa Sullivan.

The project is still in the design phase while eminent domain property negotiations begin. Those are expected to last until later in the fall.