Security Remains Big Concern At Johnson County Courthouse

By Mark Carlson, Reporter

JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa - Nearly a year after voters rejected a new Johnson County Justice Center, security concerns remain at the courthouse.

The building, which is 113 years old, has been a point of concern for county officials for more than a decade.

"I would like to see us have a metal detector and have everyone screened as they walk into our courthouse," said Janet Lyness, Johnson County Attorney.

Those concerns were renewed this week after an incident in Madison County. On Monday a man pulled a gun inside the courthouse after he was sentenced for possession of meth with intent to deliver. Authorities arrested the man after he fled the courthouse on foot, forcing nearby schools into lockdown.

"It could happen here, very easily," Lyness said.

"Security is a huge concern," Jim McCarragher, an Iowa City attorney, said. "Passions are there, heighten emotions are there, at any time it can all erupt."

McCarragher said he hopes to see the issue end up on a ballot again very soon. County officials are currently considering putting a courthouse annex project on the November ballot.

"I think November is practical," said county supervisor Janelle Rettig. "We have to do something."

The annex would come at an estimated cost of $20-25 million. It would add-on to the current facility and relocate the main entrance, which would include the addition of metal detectors and other security features.
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