An agenda item that was for discussion and update on the County Commission meeting this week was an update on the Justice Center Project.

Byron Smith with Lombard Conrad Architects presented to the commission with drawings and plans for the future justice center.

Elizabeth Frances, finance director said, “We wanted to give you an update of where we are at. We’re working in two areas to address all of the issues in the two facilities that this project covers, in addressing the U.S. Marshals’ concerns for safety, and to bring our jail up to safe level standards. The other side is keeping this project in budget.”

Frances noted that the overall layout of the plan has already had some changes to it, for example in the location of some of parking area amenities.

Smith explained the proposal of doing a jail addition on the back end of the public safety building. Inmates would come into an auto saliport. New parking for staff, overflow parking for jury selection days.

Smith, said, “We are trying to be responsive to the budget constraints we have, we are over budget. Every little thing helps.”

Commissioner Gary Perea questioned the length of the walk from the parking lot to the building itself being a long distance.

District Attorney Mike Wheable explained to the commission that any courthouse in a metropolitan area is several blocks away from parking and not being an issue. It was also noted the parking lot specific to jury selection would only be used approximately six times a year.

Wheable said, “We still need to meet with justice court, muni court, and the clerk to make sure these plans work with them because they haven’t been included.”

The Justice Center will be comprised of two floors, secured entrances will be accessed by key cards. The first floor will house the municipal and justice courts, judges chambers and the clerk’s work spaces. In addition to the district attorney office, with court clerks offices having a open desk space.

The existing public safety building will not have anything more than paint. The existing jail will be used for storage. What is currently the womens’ area will be reworked into a juvenile holding area.

There will be temporary holding cells, and four new housing pods are proposed. One of the housing pods will have a mezzanine level. The central floor will be raised five feet, so the jailer can have better control of the entire housing pods.

Howe asked the question of how much over budget they were “where are we with budget, were getting over budget already.”

Smith replied, “so we think we are at least $2 million over budget, Core thinks were being about $4 million over.”

Frances, explained the county has estimated $20 million for construction.

“We’re about $2-4 million over and those estimates were based on before we had our last meeting when we cut down more square footage,” Frances said.

Wheable said, “This is going to be another 100 years before we do another one.”

Howe said, “I got you but the longer we wait on this the more it’s going to cost. This is great, but I know we are going to start to see more and more increases.”