Total transformation

Former Townsend Hotel becomes new county court facility
2009-12-26T01:00:00Z Total transformationBy TOM MORTON - Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

A mandate from the state, talk, a defeat at the polls, talk, another defeat at the polls, more talk, an abandoned hotel, even more talk, creative financing with state money, a $10 million mark-up in costs, construction, and Natrona County finally finished the Townsend Justice Center in 2009.

After 70 years in the courthouse designed for one judge, thousands of boxes were moved by county and contract crews across North Center Street in September after the acquisition, internal demolition, design and construction that gave new life to a historic landmark.

State law requires counties to provide one 12-juror courtroom for each state district judge and staff.

The county provided that space with its 1939 courthouse, and later converted an office into a claustrophobic six-juror courtroom.

But staff overcrowding, document growth, and concerns over nonexistent security escalated after Gov. Dave Freudenthal named Casper attorney Scott Skavdahl as the county's third district judge in 2003.

Later that year, voters turned down a proposed temporary 1-cent capital facilities tax to pay for a planned $16 million courthouse.

In 2004, voters turned down a temporary quarter-cent sales tax, which prompted talk of the Legislature possibly reassigning Skavdahl to Gillette because Campbell County also had that need, as well as preparations for a third courtroom.

Meanwhile, costs rose rapidly during the area's construction boom in the middle of the decade.

After negotiations by Natrona County commissioners in 2006, the State Loan and Investment Board allocated $12.5 million to the county as part of a state effort to help counties affected by the energy boom. The county applied about $1.3 million of that amount for road improvements in the Mountain View subdivision and set aside the rest for the courthouse expansion. The county also had some money set aside in savings.

In January 2007, the county bought the former Townsend Hotel for $1.3 million from a group whose investors included Mick McMurry, Randy Hall, Jerry Amundsen, Steve Sasser, Jim Jones and Bob Ide.

In December 2007, the commission authorized the construction of the courthouse, which was scheduled for completion by the end of 2009.

Throughout construction in 2008 and 2009, work crews ran into unforeseen hassles, such as finding lots of old car parts and an occasional horseshoe, and needing to jackhammer through foundations of buildings long turned to dust.

The county had to hire a firm to help coordinate the move of the district court offices and the clerk of county court from the old courthouse, and the Natrona County Circuit Court and its clerk's offices from the fifth floor of the Hall of Justice.

Commissioners also agreed to keep the "Hotel Townsend" ghost sign on the building's east side as a reminder of its past glory as a place to socialize and do business.

The building includes a "flex courtroom" if court scheduling requires a fourth judge and jury; and the latest technology for security, jurors, courtroom spectators, and judges.

Reach Tom Morton at (307) 266-0592, or at

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Untitled Document

Civil Dialogue

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters.

If your comment was not approved, perhaps...

  1. You called someone an idiot, a racist, a dope, a moron, etc. Please, no name-calling or profanity (or veiled profanity -- #$%^&*).

  2. You rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.

  3. YOU SHOUTED YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS. This is hard to read and annoys readers.

  4. You have issues with a business. Have a bad meal? Feel you were overcharged at the store? New car is a lemon? Contact the business directly with your customer service concerns.

  5. You believe the newspaper's coverage is unfair. It would be better to write the editor at, or call Editor Jason Adrians at 266-0545 or Content Director David Mayberry at 266-0633. This is a forum for community discussion, not for media criticism. We'd rather address your concerns directly.

  6. You included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.

  7. You accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.

  8. Your comment is in really poor taste.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Featured Businesses

Latest Offers