Note: This information was last updated on the day the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners voted to place two public safety priorities on the Nov. 8, 2016 ballot.
Transcripts and videos from Board of County Commissioners and Committee of the Whole meetings on this topic are available online:
Today, the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners voted to place two public safety priorities on the Nov. 8 ballot: a new courthouse & coroner facility to be funded by ¼ cent sales tax. Here's the approved ballot language:
Shall the Board of County Commissioners of Johnson County, Kansas, for public safety projects, adopt and impose an additional one-fourth (1/4) of one-cent countywide retailers’ sales tax in Johnson County, Kansas, to be levied from and after April 1, 2017, for a period of ten (10) years, ending on March 31, 2027, with the revenue from that tax to be distributed as required by law to the county and to the cities in Johnson County, and the county share to be used to fund the costs of construction and operation of public safety projects, including the construction of a courthouse building and a coroner facility, together with the costs to demolish the existing courthouse, and for the costs of programs and facilities related to those projects, including the courts, administration of justice, and District Attorney?
Today, the Johnson County commissioners agreed to move forward on a new courthouse and coroner facility. The proposed funding is a 10-year 1/4 cent public safety sales tax. In May, county staff will bring back to the Board of County Commissioners language that, if approved by a vote, will be placed on the ballot for the November 2016 general election.
The current Johnson County Courthouse in downtown Olathe has housed the Tenth District Court of Kansas for more than half a century. The facility has gone through three additions and at least seven significant remodeling projects through the years, but continues to experience overcrowding conditions, accessibility and security issues, and demands for future space needs for additional courtrooms.
Experts, consultants and in-house county staff have analyzed more than 11 sites and 32 courthouse options since 2001. We have spent more than $1.7 million on studies over the last 15 years.
Studies and master planning in 2005 and 2008 concluded the courthouse is “inadequate and fails to meet even the current space requirements of the Johnson County Courts.” The studies cited inefficiencies in:
- security, including movement, transportation and separation of inmates between visitors and court officials
- costly mechanical systems
- failing to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements
- serving the general public
Click here for a 10-minute video that highlights the problems with the existing courthouse building and the proposed solution.
Studies also concluded that the county’s growth will require more space for court hearings in the future. When construction on the current courthouse building began in 1951, the county’s population was 62,783; today the county’s population is approximately 575,000 — a figure that’s expected to jump to 700,000 by 2025. Click here for a collection of photos that highlight some of the largest areas of concern with the existing facility.
Plans and discussion are now underway about how to move forward with the Johnson County Courthouse — the proposed solution is to construct a new 28-courtroom courthouse across Santa Fe Street north of the existing building. If plans to construct a new courthouse do not move forward, the county will need to renovate and add on to the existing facility while it is in use over the course of the next 13 years.
The Board of County Commissioners has discussed the courthouse project during several Committee of the Whole sessions; the next such discussion scheduled for April 14 at 11:00 a.m. The public is welcomed to attend Committee of the Whole sessions or watch them online here.
During a BOCC meeting in April, the commissioners will officially vote on whether or not to bring the project to a public vote in November.