Water-damaged Jackson County Courthouse in downtown Kansas City will be closed longer

The Jackson County Courthouse in downtown Kansas City will remain closed until Feb. 19 because of extensive water damage from leaking water lines, officials announced Thursday.

Jackson County Executive Frank White and 16th Circuit Presiding Judge David M. Byrn made the announcement at the county courthouse in Independence.

“We must do this the right way for the safety of our associates and of our citizens,” White said. “Our priority is fixing the situation at hand so we can reopen the courthouse as soon as possible.”

White described the damage to the courthouse as “extensive.”

The courthouse at 415 E. 12th Street has been closed since Jan. 31 when a broken water line pumped more than 10 feet of water and thousands of pounds of mud and debris into the courthouse basement, causing water damage and power outages.

Officials had hoped to open the courthouse a few days later, but a different water line break on an upper floor caused more damage.

At the time, county officials said the courthouse would be closed for the rest of the week. But on Thursday, White and Byrn said the damage to the courthouse is extensive, including damage to elevators.

White said teams of county workers and outside contractors have assessed the damage and began making repairs. County officials want to ensure that the 87-year-old building maintains and preserves its historic character.

It was too early to determine how much the damages and the repairs would cost, White said, but the bulk of the expense is expected to be covered by the county’s insurance.

“We are committed that this historic building is taken care of and with the help of the (County) Legislature, we will use this as an opportunity to make significant improvements to our downtown courthouse,” White said.

While the downtown courthouse is closed, cases are being heard at other locations downtown and in Independence. Bryn said he wanted to ensure that cases are not delayed unnecessarily.

“We believe this slight extension in the closing of the facility, although it is an inconvenience, it certainly will be in the best interest of the public and all of the governmental entities that utilize the courthouse,” he said.

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Glenn E. Rice covers crime, courts and breaking news for The Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 1988. Rice is a Kansas City native and a graduate of the University of Central Missouri.