District court in need of new sound system

EVANSTON — Although there were other items on the agenda at the October 17 Uinta County Commissioners’ meeting, the bulk of the time was spent on a request by District Court judge Joseph Bluemel to allocate funding to improve the audio equipment in the district courtroom. 

During Bluemel’s presentation to the commissioners he said the audio/visual equipment in the district courtroom was the original equipment installed when the building was constructed in 1984. There have been no upgrades to the equipment since that time, he said. 

Bluemel said he had submitted a request for an audit for the sound system equipment back in March, and, as a result of that audit, the State of Wyoming has determined that an upgrade is in order. Bluemel said the state would provide approximately $40,000 toward the cost of upgrading the AV equipment if Uinta County would provide a maximum amount of $11,500 for the project. 

According to Bluemel the age and poor quality of the current sound system have made it difficult for people to hear courtroom proceedings.

“Members of the public have a right to hear what goes on in our courtroom,” said Bluemel. 

“Not only that,” he continued, “but I think you could actually ask Loretta (Howieson, county attorney) about how trying it is to actually get witnesses to speak loud enough so that they can be heard by the jury that is literally sitting feet away from them.” 

Bluemel said if this project were approved the state would likely return in two years to upgrade the visual equipment as well. He also said that if the project were not approved he believed the project would die, as the state will not provide any funding for the upgrade if the county does not allocate its portion of the funding. 

Public Works Director Clay Baird said he and Bluemel had discussed the project and the $11,500 could be moved from another area of maintenance where actual costs had been significantly less than budgeted. 

The project would likely disable the district courtroom for up to a week while holes were drilled to serve as conduits for cables and wiring. Bluemel said staff would be able to plan around it and rearrange as necessary, possibly also making use of the circuit courtroom as Judge Michael Greer’s courtroom has already had upgrades to the sound system equipment. 

The biggest sticking point for the commissioners proved to be the inconvenience that would be caused to the county treasurer’s office while holes were being drilled between that office downstairs and the district courtroom upstairs. Bluemel said he planned to speak with Uinta County Treasurer Terry Brimhall about the project but had not yet done so. 

Commissioner Wendell Fraughton motioned to approve the transfer of funds from one area of maintenance to another to get the project moving forward. However, Commissioner Craig Welling said that he was not willing to approve the project until after Brimhall had been consulted about the inconvenience it could cause. 

“I’m not against it,” said Welling, “but I think we owe Terry the courtesy of sitting down with her and discussing the impact to her office because I think it’s more than a minor inconvenience.” 

Bluemel said he is happy to sit down with Brimhall and Baird to discuss the project and apologized for not having done so prior to making his presentation to the commissioners.

Ultimately, the commissioners voted to approve the transfer of funds pending consultation with Brimhall about the impacts to her office. 

Bluemel also told the commissioners that in a few months he would likely be back before them to request funding to purchase some chairs for the jury room in the district court. He said currently there are only six working chairs in that court so, for jury trials, staff often have to borrow chairs from the circuit courtroom to accommodate everyone. 

Bluemel said he hoped that closer to the end of the fiscal year he would be able to secure $1,200 to $1,500 to purchase new office chairs from a local office supply store. 

In other business, the board voted unanimously to appoint Mark McGurn to fill a vacancy on the Economic Development Board, with a term ending in 2020. Additionally, two subdivisions were approved following recommendations from staff with the planning office and time allotted for public hearings.

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