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Officials mull courthouse annex

BY IAN MURPHY | APRIL 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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The new courthouse annex is starting to take shape as the Johnson County Board of Supervisors and local architects perused floor plans at the supervisors’ work sessions Wednesday.

The 72,000-square-foot annex will cost an estimated $30.8 million, said Supervisor Pat Harney.
Neumann Monson Architects of Iowa City designed the floor plan.

The new annex will have four large courtrooms with seating for 95 and two smaller court rooms with seating for 49.

Each of the new courtrooms will have two conference rooms at the back.

“Having these conference rooms that weren’t in the previous design is an excellent addition,” said Johnson County prosecutor Janet Lyness.  “There’s no place for attorneys to meet with their clients or witnesses prior to going into the courtroom [at the current courthouse].”

Additionally, the larger courtrooms will have holding cells designed for up to four people adjacent to the courtrooms.

The annex will be a three-floor building and will have metal detectors at the entrance. Two of the courtrooms will be located on the third and main floor of the building, according to the floor plan. The remaining four will be located on the second floor. The first floor will be mechanical and storage.

The new courthouse annex will be built immediately south of the current courthouse and will have a connecting walkway to the old facility.

Supervisors hope they can get public approval to fund the project in the upcoming election.

“The intent is to get bond language on the November ballot,” Harney said.

To do that, the language will be written by the supervisors and will be sent to the bond committee for review. After clearing the committee, it will be sent back to the board for final approval before being put on the ballot in November, Sullivan said.

In 2012, a proposal for a new justice center was voted on but did not receive 60 percent of the votes needs to pass. That center would have encompassed a jail as well as new courtrooms.

Pressing security and facility upgrades will be made to the existing jail separately, Harney said.

As for design of the building, Supervisor Rod Sullivan said he would rather the public vote on the floor plan before designing the building.

“You’re going to do some kind of a concept drawing and all the ‘aestheticists’ in Johnson County are going to come out and rail against it and say why it’s wrong because it’s the wrong color,” Sullivan said during the meeting. “Frankly, I’m not going to play that game with them.”

However, the architects hope the new annex will add to the current building,

I think if we design it appropriately, it can serve as a back drop to the [current] courthouse,” said John Cain, a principal at Venture Architects.


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