Preserving the Historic Johnson County Courthouse

[Source: “Justice center design still in conceptual stage,” Press Citizen, 6 April 2013, Letter to the Editor by Dwight Dobberstein. This is the full content of originally submitted article.]

On May 7th voters will decide the fate of the proposed Johnson County Justice Center.  Voters deserve assurance that a “yes” vote will result in a building that is both compatible with the historic courthouse and energy efficient.

Because the courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places, the Justice Center will follow the guidelines set by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior for additions to historic buildings:

  • The character-defining features of the historic courthouse will not be radically changed, obscured, damaged, or destroyed.
  • The Justice Center will be clearly differentiated so that the addition does not appear to be part of the historic courthouse.
  • The Justice Center will be located at the rear or on an inconspicuous side of the historic courthouse.
  • The size and scale of the Justice Center will be limited in relationship to the historic courthouse.
  • The materials used on the exterior of the Justice Center will complement but, not mimic the courthouse materials.

The grand sandstone exterior of the courthouse with its ornate details is one of Johnson County’s treasures.  Any attempt to copy or simulate the courthouse architecture on the new Justice Center would be cost-prohibitive and diminish the historic character of the courthouse.

Participation in the MidAmerican Commercial New Construction Program will provide design assistance to optimize the energy efficiency of the Justice Center.  The program provides computer modeling to determine the most cost-effective design for the building envelope, HVAC systems, lighting and help the design team evaluate onsite renewable energy sources including solar, wind, and geothermal. Other sustainable features to be included in the design are natural lighting, water conservation strategies, pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled construction materials, and heat recovery systems.

Locating the Justice Center next to the courthouse will minimize vehicular transportation for the sheriff’s office, the county attorney, judges and court support staff. The location is readily accessible to pedestrians, bicycles, and public transportation reducing the necessity for and environmental impact of automobiles.

The design of the Justice Center is still in the conceptual stage.  The Johnson County Board of Supervisors and the design team are committed to an open, public design process allowing for ideas and input from the entire community.   The Justice Center will be a sustainable building serving the citizens of Johnson County for generations to come.

Please vote Yes for Johnson County on May 7.

Dwight Dobberstein
Neumann Monson PC

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