Johnson County officials discuss need of new courthouse and jail

BY DI STAFF | OCTOBER 04, 2013 5:00 AM

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Johnson County officials say there is an urgent need for new county facilities.

County officials say the county needs a new jail and courthouse, and the Johnson County Board of Supervisors is discussing a solution.

The supervisors have made two proposals for a new facility, but local voters haven’t backed either with the necessary super-majority, 60 percent of the vote.

The second proposal, which was voted on in May, received 54 percent of the vote.

At a Thursday morning meeting of the supervisors, 6th District Chief Judge Patrick Grady said the Johnson County Courthouse is unacceptable.

“The caseload [of the county] has grown exponentially,” he said.

He said despite the increase in caseload, the courthouse has remained the same — something one other county in Iowa with a similar population has improved upon.

“The major problem is, by way of comparison, the Black Hawk County Courthouse has 14 courtrooms; we have six,” Grady said.

In addition to the lack of courtrooms, security is a serious problem at the Courthouse, Grady said. Currently the entrance to the courthouse has no metal detector, which, he said, is a serious security problem.

The lack of a new courthouse is depriving an important service to the people of Johnson County, Supervisor Rod Sullivan said.

“Justice delayed can be justice denied,” Sullivan said.

The lack of a new jail is also an issue, Grady said, and an expensive one.

“Even if we cut the jail population by 20 percent, we’d still be shipping out over $950,000 a year to housing inmates in other counties,” he said.

A decision for how to address these issues has yet to be reached, and the supervisors seeks public input to help make a decision, according to a Thursday press release. There will be a public input meeting at 6 p.m. Oct. 7 in Courtroom 3A at the Courthouse.

— by Daniel Seidl

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