A tax increase to build a new court house will be put before the public in November 2016 with ballot language to be determined in April.
The Johnson County Commission recently gave the county staff direction to prepare for a public vote on $182 million for a new courthouse and a $22.5 coroner’s building.
The vote was approved 5-2, with commissioner’s John Toplikar and Michael Ashcraft opposing.
Exact determination of funding and type of tax to be put before the voters has not yet been decided, but several options are listed in a January 2016 report including an increase in mil levy, sales tax or a combination.
The current courthouse was built in 1951 with additions in 1954, 1968 and 1975; if approved, the new court house would be about 283,000 square feet and have 28 courtrooms. The construction process would take about four years. Cost would include demolition of the current courthouse and work on a courtyard to replace it.
The proposed nine-story court house is north of the existing building and across Santa Fe in Olathe.
Discussion on a new courthouse began in 2005 and has continued thru January, 2016 when the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) provided an ADA review of the courthouse to commissioners. The study cost $30,000. According to their web page, the NCSC is an independent, nonprofit court improvement organization.
Although technically ADA compliant, the study mentions the courthouse’s current entrance as having problems with: space overcrowding, inadequate space for security screening and public queuing, poor space configurations, inconvenience use accessible equipment, less visible from street, and lack of public directory assistance.
According to the NCSC report, there were several additional areas of concern including: elevated jury box and witness stand with no ramps, inadequate turning space and too few ADA compliant seats.
In several instances staff workstations were elevated with no ramp access, and there was inadequate knee space under counsel tables. The jury room has no accessible toilet, lacks grab bars in restroom, inadequate 5 foot turning diameter and door widths.
Also included in the proposal is a $22.5 million 29,000 square foot coroner’s building to be built on Sunset Drive in Olathe near the county criminalistics lab.
A December, 2015, update on funding and site information can be viewed at: LINK
The complete NCSC report can be viewed at: LINK