Kay County Courthouse renovations begin
By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — The Kay County Courthouse rises four stories above the Government Square. A pinnacle of Downtown Newkirk, it is the center of operations for Kay County, and one of the largest and most imposing structures in the community. At nearly 100 years old, the building has seen a lot of history, but also needs a lot of tender loving care, and that care has commenced with renovations of the aging structure.
Public access to the Courthouse is currently limited to the first floor, which houses the County Clerk, Treasurer and Assessor’s offices, and the basement, with offices including the Election Board, Kay County Extension, maintenance and groundskeeping and well as several other rooms for the County Clerk and Treasurer.
Caution tape blocks the main staircase leading to the upper floors.
A quick step upstairs reveals what appears to be a war zone, as construction crews are in demolition mode, removing many walls and gutting floors for a large overhaul. That demolition includes both walls and ceiling tiles.
“The third floor is totally demolished. (Work) is primarily on the third floor right now, until we can get everyone into the new annex,” said Kay County District Two Commissioner Jason Shanks.
The project has long been in the works.
Built between 1925 and 1926, the structure will be 100 years old in only a few years. The building was fully functional when constructed, but an increasing population has slowly rendered the facility obsolete as the years have passed, most notably with the district court system.
“We have four judges, and three courtrooms,” said Brian Hermanson, district attorney for the Oklahoma Eighth District, which includes Kay and Noble counties. “The building will be 100 years old in 2026, so it needs to be overhauled.”
The Courthouse also lacks meeting space for attorneys and their clients, as well as gathering spaces during trial recesses.
Other problems include electrical and plumbing work, roof leaks and an outdated heating and air conditioning system, among other problems.
Hermanson, Shanks and other county leaders have been promoting a new Courthouse annex, known as the Kay County Administration building, as well as an extension office, to help with Courthouse issues, when coupled with Courthouse renovations. County officials put it to the voters for a 1 percent sales tax on Oct. 8, 2019. Groundbreaking for the new buildings was held Aug. 11, 2020. Courthouse office demolition began shortly before Christmas.
KSB Construction is overseeing the project.
“We’re very excited about this project, and we’re very appreciative of the citizens voting on the sales tax to get this done,” Hermanson said.
The project is expected to take about 16 months, Shanks said.
Some sections of the Courthouse will remain the same. All courtrooms will be left intact along with the historic marble walls. The halls and mezzanines also will remain intact.
Everything outside of that, however, will look much different.
The basement will serve as the entry point for inmates, which will include holding cells before they are moved to courtrooms and other meeting rooms. Other court offices will also be housed on the floor.
The first floor will feature two new courtrooms, along with judges chambers, bailiffs’ offices and room for the Kay County Court Clerk.
The second floor previously housed the Court Clerk, along with two courtrooms. Those courtrooms will remain in tact, and will also make room for witness and jury rooms and judge and court reporters offices.
The District Attorney’s office will remain on the third floor, but with judges offices and courtrooms moving to adjacent floors, it will allow the office to greatly expand to twice its size.
The main entrance of the Courthouse is currently on the east side facing Main Street, with the expensive stairwell leading to the first floor. When the Courthouse reopens, the main entrance will be on the west side, and new handicapped entrances that will be flush with the sidewalks, eliminating the need for steps or ramps, Hermanson said. A new elevator will be available to the public, with the central elevator used for inmate transport to courtrooms and other hearing areas.
“It’ll be easier for the handicapped and elderly to use, because they don’t have to go down any ramps, or steps,” Hermanson said.
County leaders are excited about the project, and are looking forward to a more functional Kay County Courthouse.
“It doesn’t meet any fire or building code because it is so old, and this will allow us to go another 100 years in this big, beautiful building,” Hermanson said.