Johnson County officials want the public to see how bad the downtown Olathe courthouse looks these days so voters in November will approve a tax increase to build a new one.
That’s the thinking behind a new effort to promote tours and informational presentations about the courthouse to the public.
The first one was held Monday, and the others will be on these dates at 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.: July 26, Aug. 15 and 23, Sept. 27, Oct. 3 and 18, and Nov. 1. More information on the tours can be found on the Johnson County website at www.joco.gov.
The Star previously has recommended that county officials request voters to endorse construction of a new courthouse. The facility built in 1952 suffers from crowded courtrooms, outdated technology, accessibility issues and is not as secure as it should be in keeping victims away from those charged with crimes.
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But some Johnson Countians may balk at how the project will be financed and how much it will cost.
▪ The quarter-cent sales tax approved for the ballot by the Johnson County Commission would last 10 years. That could turn some voters off, given the recent increases in sales tax rates by the state of Kansas as well as a few cities in Johnson County.
▪ It would build a 28-courtroom courthouse near the existing one plus a new coroner facility near 119th Street and Ridgeview Road in Olathe. Together, those projects would cost $201 million, not including interest, making them among the largest public infrastructure undertakings in history in the county.
Critics on the County Commission contended renovation of the current facility could save taxpayer funds.
However, county officials have estimated that this approach actually would cost more — $216 million vs. $182 million for the new courthouse alone.
Residents have good reasons to go look at the existing building before they make the final decision on Nov. 8.