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Public Safety Sales Tax: New Courthouse and Coroner Facility

Public safety sales tax passed by voters

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Johnson County voters approved a 10-year, quarter-cent public safety sales tax to fund a new county courthouse and coroner facility. The county leadership has studied courthouse options over the past 15 years with recommendations for a new courthouse from numerous consultants, professional staff and citizen advisory groups. Funding the large project prevented the county from moving forward until now. Johnson County does not currently have a coroner facility; it uses a private lab in Wyandotte County. The public safety sales tax approved on Tuesday makes way for the construction of both projects in the next few years.
 
This public safety sales tax funding will be collected starting in April 2017 and ending in 2027. The courthouse design is expected to begin in 2017 with completion in about four years. Staff is currently developing a timeline for the construction of a coroner facility. Next steps include the Board of County Commissioners amending the county's Capital Improvement Program to include the courthouse and coroner facility projects. Following that action, the Public Building Commission can approve the projects and sell bonds.
 
The Kansas City Star published an article online about the public safety sales tax issue, along with the Board of County Commissioners election information.

Proposed new courthouse 
The proposed courthouse solution is to construct a new 28-courtroom courthouse across Santa Fe Street directly north of the existing courthouse building and directly west of Olathe City Hall in downtown Olathe. Click here for a map. The courthouse will cost $182 million and will take four years to construct. It will directly address some issues of concern for local residents:

  • Safety and security improvements — separating inmates and criminal defendants from victims, witnesses, jurors and others in courthouse corridors.
  • Replace the aging, overcrowded courthouse — with a more suitable building that would be accessible/ADA compliant.

The proposed courthouse would position Johnson County's judicial needs for the next 75 years as the county expects to add 10,000 residents each year.

Coroner facility 
Johnson County does not have its own coroner facility. Autopsies are currently conducted at a pay-for-use facility in Kansas City, Kansas. A new coroner facility in Johnson County would cost $19 million and provide:

  • Increased capacity for conducting autopsies
  • Ability to control prioritization of autopsy work for the county
  • On-site toxicology (currently outsourced)  and real-time data reporting for epidemics and crime (currently not available)
  • Getting out in front of anticipated accreditation legislation and resulting requirements for facilities
  • Opportunity to provide service to municipalities in the region