[Source: “Process on justice center has been open, thoughtful,” Press Citizen, 17 April 2013, by Larry T. Wilson]
There are many safety, security and space concerns about Johnson County’s existing courthouse and jail that make the proposed justice center a critical ballot issue in the upcoming May 7 special election.
Concerns include safety risks for deputies and inmates caused by crowded jail conditions, no way to provide secure courthouse entrances and insufficient space and design in the courthouse to keep prisoners separated from the general public.
As a volunteer with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, I’m convinced that the Board of Supervisors used a thoughtful and open process in developing plans for the proposed justice center. The cost has been pared down from an original $72 million to the current not-to-exceed $43.5 million bond request.
It has been done by eliminating non-critical space and reducing the number of courtrooms and jail beds. The $43.5 million bond request now represents the absolute minimum for providing a safe, secure and functional justice center.
The resulting property tax impact for county residents would be $22.46 per $100,000 of assessed property value per year for 20 years.
This is the right plan and the right time to approve this bond issue. Interest rates are at an all-time low and we can expect that current safety, security and space issues will only get worse over time.
In addition, the $1 million now being spent annually to house prisoners in other counties would stay in our county. Keep in mind those in jail are presumed innocent until proven guilty, yet they don’t have timely access to legal representation when they’re in jails in other counties.
Larry T. Wilson