Criminal justice committee discusses plans


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Discussions over current updates at the Johnson County Jail and Courthouse have continued, and officials say things are moving in the right direction.

The Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, consists of several representatives from Iowa City, North Liberty, and Coralville, met on Wednesday.

Jail updates, such as completion of a control room, are scheduled to begin on April 26, when Phase 1 of remodeling will begin.

Dates for when construction will start were set after coordinators were sure current Johnson County inmates would have a place they could stay while the remodeling is in process, committee and county Supervisor Pat Harney said, as well as having all project materials handy.

“The dates were set once we got the materials to do the project,” he said. “Once those were here, then we could begin the project. The sheriff had to arrange transportation and accommodations with Muscatine County.”

Inmates during this time will be relocated to Muscatine County Jail, said Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek, a committee member.

He said 40 to 50 percent of Johnson County inmates are already being housed in Muscatine. During Phase 1, they will house 80 to 90 percent of Johnson County inmates.

“Even right now for a long period of time, we’ve been shipping over our overflow inmates that we don’t have room to hold to Muscatine County,” he said. “[The jail will only hold] people who come in the night before they need to see a judge in the morning.”

After an estimated six weeks, Phase 2 will begin and the inmates will return to Johnson County. But Steve Dolezal, the chief deputy of the Sheriff]s Office, said Phase 1 of the project is not likely to be completed by then.

“It’s not based on anything I’ve been told here. It’s just my past experiences dealing with construction projects [is why I believe that],” he said. “Especially when you’re dealing with something that as they start into the project — remodels — unknown things come up.”

At the courthouse, the back entrance will get a roughly 500-square-foot addition in which an X-ray security machine will be placed.

Recently, designers have taken a look at the addition idea and are still in the process of estimating a cost.

Courthouse additions and changes are still in the planning stages, but project leaders talked about having pre-made panels that have a stone-like finish on it for design.

The courthouse construction starting date is still up in the air.

Johnson County officials are in the process of hiring and training staff to move over to the addition, where they will have two new positions available.

With many recent retirees, Pulkrabek said, during the meeting that there are many open spots for the positions.

“We have had a lot of retirees,” he said. “There are plenty to train, plenty to hire.”

Officials hope to have senior staff trained for the courthouse position.

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