Johnson County moving toward possibility of third vote - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Johnson County moving toward possibility of third justice center vote


It appears it won't take long to get a new Johnson County Justice Center back on the ballot.

"We have literally spent hundreds of hours, trying it out every which way," said Johnson County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Janelle Rettig.

56% of voters said yes to the project back in November.

That number was short of the 60% super majority needed to pass.

A proposal in 2000 also failed.

Now the Board of Supervisors has come up with one more version of the plan to address the safety and space concerns that exist with the current courthouse and jail.

"It's a crisis of public safety.  If you read the headlines, we're in a building that was built for a different time 111 years ago," Rettig said.

While only a draft at this point, officials are looking at building a facility with 50 fewer jail beds and two fewer courtrooms than the project proposed in November.

In all, the proposal creates a jail with 195 beds and four new, secure courtrooms.

Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek says he is hopeful the new proposal would meet immediate needs regarding overcrowding at the jail.

"It's a number I can live with.  I just don't want us to open on day one and having to ship inmates out of country right away," Pulkrabek said.

In all the new proposal would cost taxpayers $43.5 million, some $3 million less than the proposal in November. 

The project would also provide room for growth.

The campaign that opposed the justice center in November says the new plan fails to address its concerns.

Members of the opposition told us Thursday they hold the same concerns now as they did then.

Jeff Cox told KWWL on election night a new jail only facilitates inequity in those arrested.

"We believe building this new jail will make it worse, and will make racial disparities in this county worse as well," Cox said last November. 

County officials say a vote could come as soon as May, although it will likely be several weeks before the prospects of a vote become official.

Officials are looking to hear from the public regarding the project.


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