GPD Chief Jay Belcher addressing guests during the official opening of the new Justice Center. Staff photos by Albert Rukwaro
Special to The Gardner News
Two years after Gardner residents voted to approve $13.7 million in general obligation bonds for the building of a new justice center, the city opened the ultra modern facility that will house the police department and the municipal court during a ceremony July 11.
The Justice Center, 16540 Moonlight Road, was officially opened at a well-attended ribbon cutting ceremony presided by Steve Shute, mayor.
The ceremony was attended by local and regional leaders including representatives from neighboring cities and members of various law enforcement agencies in the metro.
Officers from Johnson County Sheriff’s department performed a color guard followed by a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by J. Weathers, Gardner Police Department officer..
In his remarks, Shute thanked the citizens of Gardner for approving the bond issue that made it possible for the city to build the facility.
“This facility is for you,” he told the gathering. “In fact this room we are standing in is designated for public use. Residents can hold meetings here, this room is for the residents of this city,” he said adding that the room was also designed to serve as a tornado shelter for the city.
Michael Kramer, public works director, recalled the process the city went through to have the project approved including the town hall meetings that were held to educate the residents about the bond issue and the project.
“We thought the city of Gardner portion of the Johnson County public safety sales tax could help offset some of the property tax burden and perhaps there was an opportunity to move forward,” he said.
He said the council approved the utilization of a “construction manager at risk” project delivery method, shortening the time to completion, lowering costs and mitigating potential risks.
Robyn Lewis, municipal court judge, said she was grateful for the new facility, adding that the court will now be able to handle more cases and thus reducing the amount of time between citation and court appearance.
After the ceremony, GPD officers conducted visitors on a tour of the facilities.
The facility has several jail cells including one that is ADA-approved, and an armory and locker rooms for officers. The facility also boasts a fully equipped fitness center and several conference rooms.
The new courtroom is equipped with video links that will allow offenders held at the county jail to appear in court without having to be physically present in the courtroom.