Judge calls elevator situation at Jackson County Courthouse ‘absolutely unacceptable’

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Jackson County judge calls conditions in the courthouse “absolutely unacceptable.”

That includes only one working elevator, leading to wait times of up to 30 minutes for staff and attorneys trying to go between floors for hearings.

On Friday, a spokesperson for Jackson County Executive Frank White said he shares Presiding Judge David Byrn’s concerns.

Byrn walks 169 stairs every day to his 5th floor office in the Jackson County Courthouse.

“You’ve got a building where there’s perhaps as many as 2,000 people a day coming in, only one elevator for the public that is allowing them to get where they need to get,” Byrn said.

Two public elevators and a service elevator have been closed since January when flood waters from a broken water line filled the basement. A third public elevator was shut down for repairs Thursday.

“As big of an issue is that is, it’s really part of a much bigger problem that is lack of maintenance and repairs at this building,” Byrn said.

Flood waters also cascaded from the sixth floor down to the third floor of the historic courthouse, leaving five courtrooms and surrounding offices inoperable.

Jackson County is waiting on insurance payments to start those repairs. Byrn said the county has the funds and should have already started fixing things.

As for those elevators, White’s office said he put out a request for bids for full repair and modernization of the elevators in June, but the only bidder’s response was rejected.

Byrn said that’s because the county is asking for the new elevators to have back doors that would open directly to court rooms, something the presiding judge doesn’t want anyway. White reissued that request for proposal Wednesday.

“The County Executive will continue to pursue all options within his authority to ensure the necessary repairs are completed as quickly as possible,” Marshanna Smith, spokesperson for the County Executive’s Office, said.

Smith promised the second elevator will be fixed by Monday when 200 people report for jury duty.

But Byrn is already asking the county to look at alternatives, including moving out of the building completely until all repairs are made.

“What we do know is it will happen again, unfortunately, and probably on a regular basis,” Byrn said.

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