Proposed Justice Center Information
The following information is to provide Johnson County residents a better understanding of why a Justice Center bond initiative has been placed on the November 6, 2012 ballot.
This overview addresses safety, security and space needs and a breakdown of costs in the areas of courts, incarceration and law enforcement in Johnson County identified by the Board of Supervisors, the County Attorney, the Sheriff, and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee (CJCC). This website provides general information including a Questions and Answers brochure, to assist you in better understanding of the need, location, costs and other steps the County has taken. Other highlighted documents, including a planning and objectives document that was created by the CJCC in early 2011, show many recent steps that have been taken in an effort to place a Justice Center initiative on the ballot.
These highlighted documents throughout this overview will directly link you to several reports on specific topics that may be of interest to you. No large expenditure of tax dollars should proceed without scrutiny. Here, information is provided for you to make an informed decision.
Question and Answers Video
The CJCC identified significant Courthouse deficiencies and advantages for the Courthouse if a Justice Center is built. CJCC also identified numerous jail deficiencies and the Sheriff’s Office identified several design, transportation and safety issues that will be addressed if a Justice Center is built. Johnson County’s population is increasing, as it does, it affects who is in the jail. As the growth rate increases for both, so do the cost to ship inmates to other county jails across the State; since Fiscal Year 2005, Johnson County has spent over $7.5 million dollars. Efforts to reduce the amount of inmates in our Jail have also been implemented. CJCC has worked extensively to find alternatives and treatments to jailing, including the creation of the Johnson County Alternatives / Mental Health Diversion Program. The Program works to connect individuals to the appropriate level of community-based treatment for their mental health and co-occurring needs in hopes of improving their overall quality of life and reducing their involvement in the criminal justice system.
To create a more safe and secure Courthouse and Jail and to address a shortage of space in the two facilities, the proposed new Justice Center (View 1, view 2) would utilize the existing Courthouse. Using local architectural firm Neumann Monson along with Venture Architects, the Justice Center would be located directly behind the Courthouse, replacing the existing hill and a small storage building. The Justice Center Pre-Schematic Design would include a new five-level building and have full construction of a 243-bed Jail and Sheriff’s Office. Other features include new space for the Clerk of Court, six additional courtrooms and judge chambers, additional office space and programming for treatments and alternatives, a new secure entrance way into the existing Courthouse, and all site development on the Courthouse block including 50 parking spaces. The facility would also have the capability to be expanded to the south with access to Harrison Street and land across from the existing Jail on South Capitol Street. Johnson County is in the process of purchasing the final of seven homes across from the existing Jail and is in negotiations to acquire land owned by the General Services Administration (Federal parking lot) south of the Courthouse. The total estimated projected cost of the project is $48.123 (m). To help save money in the bond vote request and reduce the impact on taxpayers, the Board of Supervisors agreed to reduce the size and scope of the architects full cost of the Justice Center Project from $53.197 (m) to that $48.123 (m) estimate. This is a significant reduction from the proposed $72 (m) that Durant Consulting had priced the project in 2009. To get the cost down from $53.197 to $48.123, the Board eliminated a majority of Courthouse remodeling, renovation for the County Attorney and additional meeting rooms ($3,130,091). The Board also voted to eliminate completion (shelling) of two new courtrooms in the new facility ($425,000), eliminated a new 64 space parking lot on the south block ($250,000) and reduced additional project soft costs ($1,269,521). To reduce the tax asking on the bond further, the Board agreed to use current savings/reserves in capitols funds of $1.3 (m) and apply that toward the bond as a down payment; therefore the current bond vote request will be $46.8 (m). It is estimated that a $46.8 million bond would have a tax impact of $24.59 per $100,000 of assessed value on residential property per year for 20 years. It is anticipated that current funds spent on jail transport will help offset additional operating costs for the new facility; no decision has yet been made on the future use or sale of the existing Jail building if voters approve the Justice Center Bond Initiative.
By resolution and with unanimous support of the Board of Supervisors on May 31, 2012, the Board voted to give notice that a special county election will be held in conjunction with the general election on November 6, 2012, at which there will be submitted to the voters of the county the following proposition:
“Shall the County of Johnson, State of Iowa, issue its general obligation bonds in an amount not exceeding the amount of $46,800,000 for the purpose of erecting and equipping a County Justice Center, to solve current safety, security and space needs of the Sheriff, jail and court operations, in a structure to be located adjacent to and incorporating the existing historic courthouse?”
This information has been provided to help residents of Johnson County make an informed decision. For further information about the Justice Center issue, please call Johnson County Sheriff 356-6020, Johnson County Attorney 339-6100 or Johnson County Board of Supervisors 356-6000.
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