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Johnson County Wants Public Input On New Justice Center Plan

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - Leaders in Johnson County are seeking public input on another proposal to build a new justice center near downtown Iowa City. Tuesday night the county rolled-out their new plan to voters at a public meeting in the old courthouse.

"What we want to reveal is this new plan, and see what people think," said county chairperson Janelle Rettig. "This will fulfill the county's needs from the day we open."

The plan is not set in stone, but will likely be very similar to what goes before voters. County leaders are leaning toward a special election in May, Rettig said. Public input will help shape any changes the board makes before finalizing the proposal, according to supervisor Pat Harney.

"I like the second design better than the first personally," said Harney. "It's a good plan."

Supervisors went back to the drawing board after voters narrowly turned down the measure in November. That plan would have cost tax payers nearly $47 million, the new proposal reduces that amount by $3.3 million. The new building would come with a slight reduction in size, while leaving room for future growth. There would also be a large emphasis on safety, according to county leaders.

"The courthouse and jail are places where emotions can run high," said Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek, who cited his own concerns after observing some of the ongoing Justin Marshall first-degree murder trial this week. "Deputies are checking people with hand-wands before they go in, so there's a lot of activity up there."

The slimmed down proposal would reduce the number of jail beds by about 50. There would also be a reduction in courtrooms, but shells would be left open for future expansion.

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