Vote 'no' to this crystal palace of a justice center

Phil Hemingway, 28 October 2012  •  Comments

Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek has a tough sell — getting the taxpayers of Johnson County to feel sorry for lawyers and lawbreakers; and in some cases they are one and the same.

After attending a forum and hearing the sheriff's sales pitch firsthand, I’m still not sold.

Is this the only option available to us? I hardly think so.

One of the sheriff's main concerns was that the present courthouse has two entry points and ground level windows which individuals could gain access to the courthouse.

I guess it's beyond consideration to put a period-correct wrought iron fence around the courthouse with a guard shack and screening equipment at the northeast corner of the square where the old DMV building used to be. That way individuals would be screened prior to entering the courthouse compound or building itself and have only one entry point.

Another concern raised is that we don't have enough courtroom space to handle the criminal and civil caseloads in Johnson County. Have they ever considered expanding their hours of service? If you have three courtrooms operating eight hours a day and you expand the hours by four) hours a day, you would increase the courtroom capacity by 50 percent.

And if more is needed, extend the hours even more or consider working a half day on Saturday. There is nothing wrong with making the courts more accessible to the common working man.

It was stated at the forum that the average stay in our county jail is only a few days. If this is true, it seems our county jail is less San Quentin and more Days Inn.

It is unfortunate that Tate High School does not have a designated gymnasium but yet our inmates will have a 14 foot high exercise facility so they don’t get out of shape during their few day stay.

Warning! The following may be too satirical. Reader discretion is advised.

Johnson County attorneys have been struggling to make ends meet in our present economic conditions. Haven't we all heard reports of attorneys living paycheck to paycheck, just scraping by? And in fact, it's so bad that some have resorted to driving BMWs. By all means these under-compensated professionals should be provided with a "Crystal Palace." Yes, the taxpayers of Johnson County have been living high off the hog for far too long.

I know our hardworking county supervisors have spent a lot of time weighing through all the possible choices for addressing these issues. Just as they did with the Joint Emergency Communications Center, which came in under budget and is operating well under expected costs. (Again, beware the satire.)

I'm sure that the proposed justice center will be built for far less than the quoted $46.8 million. And if you believe that, you may be interested in purchasing a federally funded footbridge to a bar.

Seriously though, all of us in Johnson County owe a great debt of gratitude and respect to all our law enforcement personnel for the tireless and thankless job they do for us in extremely dangerous conditions.

But this does not mean that there isn't more than one way to address our needs.

The proposed justice center is not the type of county transparency that I, as a taxpayer, am looking for.

Phil Hemingway is an Iowa City resident.