Johnson County courthouse expansion price increases

By Gregg Hennigan, The Gazette

IOWA CITY — Johnson County has revised the ballot language voters will see in November for a courthouse annex to reflect a higher price tag for the project.

The Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 Thursday to repeal a resolution passed in May asking for a $30.8 million bond issue and setting that amount at $33.4 million. The rest of the ballot language remains the same.

The increase came after the county asked the public for feedback this summer and incorporated some of those suggestions into the design of the building.

The biggest change is moving the proposed building from the south side of the existing courthouse, 417 S. Clinton St. in Iowa City, to the west side. Its three floors will be built into a hill, with only a small portion at the same level as the courthouse’s ground floor.

The new design calls for a slightly smaller building at 69,167 square feet. But like the previous version, it still includes a secure entrance, six new courtrooms and additional space for the Clerk of Court, judges and meeting rooms for attorneys and clients. The current courthouse is 113 years old and officials say it is insecure and lacking in court, office and storage space.

The $33.4 million bond issue will be on the Nov. 4 ballot. It will need 60 percent approval to pass. Voters rejected funding plans for a justice center, which would have had a new jail and court space, in 2012 and 2013.

Supervisor Rod Sullivan said while people often complain that once a proposal gets before a government body, decisions have already been made, the recent changes showed that what the public thinks matters.

“There was a pretty big change made here, and it was made based primarily on public opinion,” he said of the courthouse annex.

Supervisor John Etheredge said the supervisors also spent a lot of time discussing the price of the project and looking for ways to bring it down.

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