PLATTE CITY, Mo. — A central piece of Platte County history is under the microscope while architects try to figure out how to retrofit the courthouse that was built right after the Civil War to meet modern needs.
The county is using $67,000 for master planning and assessments in the historic building to create a set of plans for how to expand and upgrade the building. The county is about to get another judge in the next few days or weeks to handle a growing caseload. In the next few years, they expect another judge as the county continues to quickly grow.
“So the [Platte] County Commission has started the steps to find room in this building for two new courtrooms, and maybe a third, which would be several more years down the line,” said Platte County Commissioner Joe Vanover.
But, the charm of the original brick and historic artifacts in the lobby has faded for Judges Thomas Fincham and Ann Hansbrough.
They showed FOX4 cramped courtrooms that sometimes disrupt court proceedings because the spaces are roughly half the size recommended by the National Center for State Courts.
They also outlined a long list of security concerns related to capacity and how defendants have to move through the courthouse.
Hansbrough says the Judges would prefer a new court complex similar to what other counties have built. New construction would allow a new space to be built with the most recent best practices and designs.
But, Commissioner Vanover says that would take time and money that Platte County doesn’t have.
“The obstacles to building a big, new, beautiful courthouse complex somewhere else are just too many to start naming,” Vanover said. “But the big one is money.”
Instead, he thinks moving foward with a renovation plan in the existing building is the best option. Part of the renovations will relocate the Platte County Sheriff Offices to the old County Resource Center at 11724 NW Plaza Circle in Kansas City, Missouri. That will allow the Platte County Prosecutor’s Office to consolidate into the Sheriff’s former office, freeing up about 3,000 square feet of space in the old courthouse.
Vanover says he thinks that’s enough new space for more courtrooms, while keeping the heart of Platte City where it’s been for 150 years.
“When the anchor tennant leaves a commercial area, all the small shops eventually die out and I’m afraid for downtown Platte City if the court functions leave this area,” Vanover said.
Next door, Blake Barth is watching what happens at the courthouse closely. He just bought the old Landmark Building and plans to renovate it into a living space upstairs with a tenant on the street level. The historic charm along Main Street was part of what drew him there.
“You can see old photos of 1860 and its horse and buggy and that building has changed very little and that courthouse has changed very little,” said Barth.
Vanover says if the renovations move forward, he hopes they would be completed by next summer. But, he adds that county leaders still need to figure out which solution they’ll pursue.