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Why does Johnson County need a new courthouse? What’s wrong with the current one?

The original courthouse structure still in use is now 64 years old and it’s in a state of considerable disrepair. Some of the most significant problems with the current courthouse are:

  1. Aging infrastructure, which includes problems like cracked and crumbling interior and exterior walls and corroded and cracked pipes; all extremely expensive and these repairs have been delayed to prevent further spending if a decision is made to proceed with a new courthouse;
  2. Safety and security, which includes inmates using the same hallways as jurors, victims and witnesses, and the building being too close to the street;
  3. Accessibility issues such as no wheelchair access to the jury boxes and limited accessibility for wheelchairs throughout the building;
  4. Outdated technology, which among other concerns can make showing evidence to jurors more difficult during a trial; and
  5. Inadequate courtroom and meeting space, which leads to crowded courtrooms and hallways and little to no space for attorney-client meetings, often forcing private conversations to occur in public hallways.

For a better idea of the extent of these issues, please take a look at some of the photos we have online of the condition of the current courthouse; click here to access them. 

We also have a video online which provides an overview of the concerns as well as the proposed plan for a new courthouse and coroner facility, viewable here.

It’s the cumulative effect of all of these issues combined that make building a new courthouse our most cost-effective option, rather than continuing to sink money into the existing facility. It would be extremely challenging to make all of the necessary changes to the existing building simply because it was built to accommodate the needs of the county back in 1952, and things like layout are impossible to modify to today's needs. If we move forward with the proposal to build a new courthouse, it will be cheaper than renovating and adding on to the existing structure ($182 million for a new courthouse to be built in four years versus $216 million for the existing courthouse to be renovated with an addition built on to it).