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Recent Jackson County tax hike could pay for infrastructure improvements at downtown courthouse

Funds will also go toward new jail
Posted: 8:50 PM, Feb 04, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-04 23:15:17-05
Jackson County Courthouse repairs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Updates at the aging Jackson County Downtown Courthouse could be coming out of your pocket.

That's because last year the county legislature rolled back a 10-year-old tax cut.

The $19.5 million now generated through the property tax increase goes into a county improvement capital project fund .

One potential site for upgrades is the courthouse, which was shuttered again Monday after a second water line break.

Some say the situation calls attention to a need for major infrastructure improvements at the building.

"The downtown courthouse has been neglected as far as just our regular maintenance," said Jackson County Legislative Chair Theresa Galvin.

Galvin pointed to elevator improvements, as well as IT upgrades, as examples of possible projects.

The capital project fund will also be used for a new jail, which has been estimated to cost anywhere from $180 million all the way up to $270 million.

"Originally, we were thinking $10 million out of this 19.5 would go to make a bond payment. Of course, none of these numbers are exact, and we'll have to wait until we get into and find out exactly what we're looking at," Galvin said.

The fund will also pay for a workforce analysis, which will determine what the hourly wage should be for employees.

First the priority is simply reopening the courthouse, which John Picerno, a criminal defense attorney, can see from his office window.

"It does present a scheduling nightmare," Picerno said of the closure.

Depositions planned to take place in the courthouse were instead moved to his office on Monday, but he was lucky enough to not have a trial scheduled for this week.

Others are not as lucky.

"I mean I have trials scheduled through March of next year, so 13 months down the road. You can't just pick up a trial for this week and plop it down into somebody's schedule," said Picerno.

In the meantime, the Jackson County Circuit Court is working to move certain dockets and cases to other locations. The court will send out daily updates, and notices will be placed online and on the doors of the courthouse.

"We will continue to do the best we can in providing justice to those who have accessed the Court for help in solving their disputes. Unfortunately, we do not have enough courtrooms in other locations to move all of the cases that are scheduled at the downtown courthouse," said Presiding Judge David M. Byrn.

On Tuesday, Feb. 5, these judges will hear cases at the Kansas City Municipal Court, 511 E. 11th St.:

9:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. cases
Division 26, Judge Atkins
Division 29, Judge Rodecap
Division 31, Judge Weir

Afternoon cases
Division 26, Judge Atkins
Division 31, Judge Weir

On Tuesday, Feb. 5, this judge will hear cases at the Criminal Justice Building, 1315 Locust:

9:00 a.m.
Division 25, Judge Standridge