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As Safety Tests of Cortez Justice Building Begin, Future of the Bridge Shelter Remains Uncertain

Austin Cope

Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment will pay for a hazardous-materials assessment of the Justice Building in Cortez’s Centennial Park.

Montezuma County, which owns the facility, recently listed it for sale for $1.3 million. It houses county court, probation offices, and criminal evidence kept by the sheriff’s office. County Administrator Melissa Brunner tells KSJD she learned recently that the state will send a team to see if the building contains materials such as asbestos or lead paint, both commonly used around the time of its construction. The sale is being triggered by the construction of a new county courthouse on land across Empire Street.

But it raises questions about the future of the Bridge Emergency Shelter, which operates out of the Justice Building to provide overnight housing for the indigent during winter months. Brunner tells KSJD the Bridge will definitely finish its current season, which ends in April. She says if a potential buyer comes forward, the county will be “as considerate as possible” to the shelter and give it time to relocate. She says the new courthouse should be completed by early fall but there will be a lag time before the agencies are settled in. Brunner says county officials feel some urgency about selling the Justice Building because they don’t want to see it sit vacant.

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