The county is ready to move ahead with the project, expected to be completed in July 2012 at a cost of $4.6 million. About $700,000 of that amount will come from a grant through the state Community Impact Board, which uses mineral royalties paid to Utah to help fund community projects.
Camille Moore, county auditor and clerk, said a two-story addition will include badly needed court space.
"We want to try and match everything so [the new additions] don't detract," she said.
Moore said most residents support the project, but a handful have grumbled about the cost, arguing that replacing the old building would be more cost-efficient.
Ben Rogers, project architect for Salt Lake City-based Cooper Roberts Simonsen Associates (CRSA), said the addition will complement the original structure without trying to replicate it. The renovation will offer better security for judges, the public and inmates.
In addition to courtrooms, the 1908 building houses the county clerk, recorder, surveyor, commissioners, attorney, planner, inspections and treasurer as well as the state driver license division, division of motor vehicles and assessor.
Rogers praised residents in the small rural county for their determination to protect the structure.
"They set aside $3.9 million, which is impressive for a small county project," Rogers said.
CRSA specializes in the adaptive reuse of historic buildings. The firm designed the remodel of the former South High School in Salt Lake City for use by Salt Lake Community College and has remodeled numerous buildings at historic Fort Douglas.
Barbara Murphy, preservation program manager for the state Office of Historic Preservation, said her office has reviewed the renovation plans to make sure they meet guidelines based on national standards.
While the Office of Historic Preservation has no authority over the project, it can review plans and make recommendations when state money is involved.
Murphy said new additions to old structures should never try to duplicate the original. "Make [additions] compatible, but still distinguish it," she said.
Moore said everything in the courthouse will be moved to temporary offices at the county fairgrounds beginning in mid-May as the project gets under way.
"There's no air-conditioning in the summer or heating in the winter," she said of the temporary digs. "I hope they finish on time."