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District Court returns to Lower Valley

County selects Grandview as court site

After an eight-year absence, a branch of the Yakima District Court is returning to the Lower Valley.

And Grandview has been chosen over two other cities to give it a home.

The district court will take up 8,190 square-feet, or 65 percent, of the former Department of Social and Health Services building on Wine Road, off I-82 at Exit 73.

The Yakima County Board of Commissioners will formally announce the site selection at a 10 a.m. news conference Thursday, Oct. 20, at that location.

In addition to accommodating District Court cases, some Superior Court cases can also be heard there.

"That's pretty novel," said Harold Delia, court administrator.

It's possible, he explained, through the Portability Law and an agreement between the District and Superior Courts.

The building will house a district courtroom, judges chambers, jury room, three offices for prosecutors, three offices for public defenders, and three probation offices.

"We will be sending three people from Yakima to Grandview for District Court probation and juvenile probation. Instead of having people driving all the way to Yakima, this will be more convenient," said Delia.

He estimates the new court will open Jan. 1.

Four judges-Michael McCarthy, Kevin Roy, Rod Fitch and Don Engel-will serve on the bench, rotating monthly.

Grandview's selection as the site for Lower Valley District Court came after consideration that ruled out Toppenish and Sunnyside.

"We sent a letter to all Lower Valley cities, asking if they were interested, and Sunnyside, Grandview and Toppenish responded," said Delia.

After a realty firm checked out potential sites in all three cities, Toppenish was dropped from consideration. "They just didn't have the space for court," said Delia.

"So it came down to Sunnyside and Grandview. Then we looked at the economics of the two proposals and the location. They were quite different," said Delia.

"Sunnyside wanted us to build an addition to the Law and Justice Center and that would have cost us $2,022,010 and they wanted us to pay $70,000 a year in rent. Grandview offered us a lease deal that would cost $546,075 for five years," Delia said.

"We didn't have $2 million. Our Lower Valley District Court budget is $280,000 a year," he said, adding, "Grandview's proposal would cost $13 a square-foot for the first five years and $7 a square-foot for the next five years. Our architect said that was a good deal."

The court is being funded by the three-tenths of one percent sales tax increase for Law and Justice the voters passed in November 2004.

With that in mind, Delia said, the lease with Nelson Realty in Bellevue, which owns the building, calls for payments of $9,000 a month for the first five years and $4,700 monthly for the next five years.

"We wanted it front-loaded, so we could stay out there for 10 years at least," said Delia.

"The City of Grandview was really great during the process. The mayor, chief of police, city manager-we formed a partnership with them. They agreed to provide police services. I think it's a good deal. Most of the population in the Lower Valley is in Sunnyside and Grandview, and it will save them the long drive to Yakima."

Attorney Douglas Garrison of Sunnyside, who spends 30 percent of his time in District Court and 40 percent in Superior Court, said he was "a little disappointed" that Grandview won out over Sunnyside in securing District Court.

"I think Sunnyside would probably be a better location for it," said Garrison, citing the extra miles Toppenish and Wapato people will have to drive. "A drive to Grandview is almost as long for them as going to Yakima, but they may have a choice," he noted.

"But there's no question we need a District Court in the Lower Valley somewhere, like we used to have.

"Putting it in Grandview is going to basically be OK. I don't know what action our city fathers made to work with them. I didn't really see any particular action on their part. What should have happened is the City of Sunnyside should have let them have the building free for five, even 10 years, or forever," said Garrison.

"There would have been people here buying gas, lunch, maybe shopping. I think it would have meant some ancillary business for Sunnyside. Grandview seems to be much more adept at getting businesses to settle there than we do in Sunnyside. Our city fathers and city leaders don't seem to be interested or maybe not as aggressive," said Garrison, naming several businesses that have recently located in Grandview.

"If it was a scoreboard, it'd be Grandview 10-Sunnyside 1," concluded Garrison.

Grandview Mayor Norm Childress said he thought opening a branch of District Court in the Lower Valley was "great for the people in East Yakima County", and he thought it would be beneficial, not only to Grandview, but to those who have been spending time on the road to do court business.

"It will save the attorneys that travel time and give them more time for clients in the office. And we'll have judges, attorneys, people coming to litigate, and I think those folks will have coffee, grab some lunch, so I think it will be beneficial to our city," said Childress.

"The city didn't have a huge role in (attracting the court)," Childress claimed. "We knew the owner of the building, so we made some contacts with them and the court, so they could meet."

"I'm sure our police department will be providing some security, and, if detention is needed, we may use our jail to detain them. We haven't worked that out yet," said Childress.

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