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Johnson County to host six public engagement meetings for a new courthouse and coroner facility

Six public meetings in March and April will provide opportunities for the public to learn more about a new Johnson County Courthouse and coroner facility, as well as provide feedback.

The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners is considering a new 28-courtroom structure located across the street from the current location on Santa Fe and Cherry Street in downtown Olathe, and a new coroner facility near the county’s Criminalistics Laboratory at 119th and Ridgeview in Olathe. The BOCC may bring these projects to a public vote in November.

The public and media are invited to six meetings held throughout the county. BOCC Chairman Ed Eilert, Vice Chairman Steve Klika and other commissioners; Johnson County District  Attorney Steve Howe, Chief Judge Kevin Moriarty and Judge Thomas Foster; and members of the consultant team and county management staff will be available to answer questions about the courthouse. Johnson County Sheriff Frank Denning or Undersheriff Kevin Cavanaugh will be available to answer questions on the coroner facility.

Each meeting will present the same material and include several information booths, a twenty 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 6–7:30 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

The current Johnson County Courthouse in downtown Olathe has housed the Tenth District Court of Kansas for more than half a century.

The existing facility opened in 1952 and has gone through three additions and at least seven significant remodeling projects through the years, but continues to experience a number of challenges including:

• Security concerns:  it is extremely close to the street compared to other courthouses (many of which have been modified since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995)
• 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.

Experts, consultants and in-house county staff have analyzed more than 11 sites and 32 courthouse options since 2001.

Johnson County does not have a coroner facility and all autopsies for the county are conducted at Frontier Forensics Midwest, LLC in Kansas City, Kansas. The national average for the number of autopsies in a county of a comparable size is 445 a year; however, current capacity only allows for 305 autopsies a year for the Johnson County population. In addition to increasing the number of annual autopsies, a new facility would provide real-time data reporting for epidemics and crime, resulting in opportunities for quicker county response to potential public health issues and emerging crime trends.

Funding options being considered by the Board of County Commissioners for the courthouse and coroner facility include a quarter-cent sales tax for 10 years, an eighth-cent sales tax plus a property tax (mill levy) increase for 10 years, or a property tax (mill levy) increase for 20 years.
In addition to the upcoming meetings, more information on the new courthouse and coroner facility is available at www.jocogov.org/courthouse.