Unsafe, outdated, and not compliant: that's what Joe Waters, the assistant county manager for Johnson County called JoCo's courthouse.
"You can take care of a lot of things, but when it comes to basic accessibility for people with disabilities, when it comes to indoor air quality, when it comes to structural integrity, these things take substantial investment to rectify," he explained.
Johnson County opened the courthouse in 1952. Since then, it's undergone expansion and renovation. Still, problems persist, including:
- Security concerns: It is close to the street compared to other courthouses (many of which have been modified since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1994).
- Safety concerns: Its current layout results in inmates and the jurors, witnesses and victims using the same public space.
- Accessibility concerns and lack of ADA (Americans w/Disabilities Act) compliance.
- Significant challenges with the aging infrastructure and outdated technology.
- Overcrowding and demands for additional courtrooms.
While Waters said the building still isn't beyond repair, it would cost about $216 million to bring it into the 21st century. An entirely new courthouse would cost $182 million, about $34 million less.
The county reports that over the last decade and a half, consultants have analyzed about a dozen sites and 32 courthouse options, and this plan is the best one on the table. But here's the problem - the county can't foot the bill, so if it comes to fruition, the responsibility will likely fall on taxpayers.
"The county commissioners will need to decide what will be the best way to pay for this solution," he said. "It's a $182 million project. It's a much larger project than we can afford with any revenue we have today, so they are looking at options."
Here are a few of the options right now:
That's why the county is holding public meetings. The goal is to inform the public about JoCo's needs, while also getting feedback. The Johnson County Board of Commissioners will meet after the public meetings commence in April to vote on how this plan should be paid for. If they decide taxpayers should pay for it, the measure would go on a ballot for voters to decide.
Each meeting will present the same material and include several information booths, a 20-minute presentation on the new courthouse (during each half hour) and the opportunity for attendees to take a quick survey to provide feedback on the information presented.
All meetings are from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and are open house format.
Monday, March 7
Johnson County Administration Building, Lower Level Room 200 - 111 S. Cherry St., Olathe
Monday, March 14
Leawood City Hall, Lower Level in the Oak Room - 4800 Town Center Dr., Leawood
Thursday, March 17
Johnson County Northeast Office - 6000 Lamar Ave. #200, Mission
Monday, April 4
Hilltop Learning Center - 7700 W. 143rd St., Overland Park
Thursday, April 7
Thompson Barn 11184 Lackman Rd., Lenexa
Monday, April 11
Shawnee Town Hall - 11501 W 57th St., Shawnee
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