Nez Perce County Courthouse construction: 'It finally feels real'

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Feb. 7—The new Nez Perce County Courthouse might not be done, but it took a big step forward as the last beam was placed into the main structure.

A ceremony took place at noon Tuesday at Lewiston when county officials signed the final beam. They included Commissioners Don Beck, Doug Havens and Doug Zenner, Prosecutor Justin Coleman, Clerk and Auditor Patty Weeks, Assessor Dan Anderson, Treasurer Rebecca "Missy" McLaughlin, Coroner Josh Hall, Lewiston Mayor Dan Johnson and other employees at the courthouse and county offices and those working the construction project. The beam was then placed into the structure, displayed with an evergreen tree and an American flag.

Woody Sams, superintendent on the project for contractor Kenaston-Leone and Keeble, joined Havens and Johnson in speaking to the crowd of about 50 people. Sams compared his job to being a conductor of a symphony. Although his role is the one that's the most seen, he credited the work to the construction crew, like those who play the music in a symphony.

"The guys are the music," Sams said. "These are the guys that do all the work."

He also acknowledged the "composer" of the construction: the architects of Lombard Conrad Architects in Boise.

Sams explained the symbolism of the evergreen tree in the beam ceremony as a Scandinavian tradition in which a tree is placed on the top of a building. It's partly a religious symbol representing spirits displaced in the trees to create the structure. Also, when the evergreen tree loses its needles as it's dried, it lets builders know when the wood in the building has dried.

Elected officials went to the third floor of the partly constructed building and watched the beam placed by construction crew members Bryan Baumgarden and Kyle McMurray. Baumgarden walked across the top of the structure with safety hooks to complete the task as McMurray stood on the other side of the beam, also wearing safety gear. The high-rise feat earned the admiration of those watching, both on that day and during the project as a whole.

Weeks was impressed seeing the "iron workers work their magic" so closely from the third floor, calling them "pure athletes."

Johnson told the crowd about how he watched the crews work, especially the iron workers on the beams, calling them "skillful."

"I was impressed," Johnson said. "I learned something from that."

Havens enjoyed watching the building progress from the commissioners' office at the Brammer Building. He said the community has needed a new courthouse for a while because of the "bad shape" of the building.

"This has been a long time in the making," Havens said.

Anderson, having worked for the county since the 1980s, is looking forward to the new structure and working in a spacious building that is better suited for customers and employers.

"It's going to be quite impressive when it's completed," Anderson said.

Havens said that the building's footprint design is done and the courthouse is scheduled to be completed May 2025.

"It finally feels all the way real," Coleman said. "It's taken quite a while."

Brewster may be contacted at kbrewster@lmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2297.