OLATHE, Kan. -- Johnson County Commissioners will hold the first of six public meetings Monday night to discuss building a new courthouse and coroner's office.
Built in 1952, the current courthouse is falling apart. There are cracks in need of repair both inside and outside; the building is not ADA accessible to those in wheelchairs and with special needs; inmates are walked down public hallways; the technology is outdated; there are safety concerns with the courthouse sitting so close to the street; and there isn't enough space inside the courtrooms.
"If you go to court, you'll find in many of the rooms, people have to stand during the proceedings just to be there," said Sharon Watson, Communications Manager for Johnson County, "so it's a very challenging work area. We've had to convert conference rooms into courtrooms, and we've had to make a lot of modifications over the years just to try to make it work."
The County has spent more than $13 million over the past 15 years in repairs. Some want to renovate the current building, but county officials say that would cost $14 million more than building a new courthouse.
"It is more expensive to renovate and keep this one going over the course of the long term," Watson said, adding renovations would take more than 13-years compared to the four years it would take to build a new courthouse.
The new courthouse would cost $182-million and be built across the street from the current courthouse, at the corner of Santa Fe and Kansas Avenue next to Olathe City Hall. Building a coroner's office would add another $19-million to the total cost. Currently, the Johnson County coroner shares space with the Wyandotte County coroner. A new coroner's building would go up next to the Johnson County Crime Lab at 11890 S. Sunset Drive in Olathe, Kan.
Johnson County officials hope to educate the public during an open house-style meeting Monday from 6 to 7:30 p.m.,at the Johnson County Administrative Building at 111 S. Cherry in Olathe, Kan.
"The challenge now is helping them understand what is wrong with the building right now and the cost of building a new one versus renovating and keeping this one going," Watson said.
There are three proposals to pay for it: a 1/4 cent sales tax, an 1/8 cent sales tax combined with higher property taxes for 10-years, or higher property taxes for 20-years. The Johnson County Commission will make a decision in April. After that, voters in November would vote to approve any tax increases. If residents do agree to build a new courthouse, it would take four years to complete. After that, the old courthouse would be torn down and turned into green space.
Meeting Dates Include:
- March 7 Johnson County Administration Building(111 S. Cherry Street, Olathe)
- March 14 Leawood City Hall(4800 Town Center Dr.)
- March 17 Johnson County Northeast Offices(6000 Lamar, Mission)
- April 4 Blue Valley Hilltop Campus(7700 West 143 Street, Overland Park)
- April 7 Lenexa City Hall(12350 West 87 Street Parkway)
- April 11 Shawnee Town Hall (11600 Johnson Dr.)
- All events take place from 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.