For the second time in two years, Jackson County is taking on the task of completing a major renovation to one of its courthouses.
At the regular weekly meeting of the Jackson County Legislature on Monday, April 7, County Executive Mike Sanders and Presiding Judge Marco Roldan of the 16th Circuit Court provided an update on the planned renovations for the Eastern Jackson County Courthouse in Independence.Some of the work is already underway. In January, Jackson County Public Works crews began tuck pointing the exterior of the courthouse, which was last renovated in 1972. Tuck pointing is a process that involves restoring the joints of a building so it is sealed properly and protected from water leaks. That work will be completed in early summer.
As that work is finished, bids will go out for the interior renovations. Highlights of the interior work will include five new courtrooms and a new jury room that features double the square footage and capacity as it stands currently.
"When this project is completed, we believe this facility will be able to serve the needs of the citizens of eastern Jackson County for at least the next 20-40 years," said County Executive Sanders.
In 2013, 41 percent of all cases in the 16th Circuit Court were filed in Independence, yet only 30 percent of Circuit Court and Associate Circuit Court judges are based at the Independence courthouse. Since 2012, one of every five cases filed in Independence has been transferred to Kansas City.
Presiding Judge Roldan noted the urgency and importance of this project.
"It is much needed because we are basically busting at the seams," he said. "The caseload for judges in eastern Jackson County are at a minimum of 33 percent higher than the judges in downtown Kansas City."Other planned improvements will include as well as a new elevator, refurbished restrooms as well as a new and enlarged entry for the public.
Last fall, the county reopened the Historic Truman Courthouse on the Independence Square. Several county departments, including Assessment, Collections and the Recorder of Deeds, moved into the Truman Courthouse this past September. Those moves opened up the necessary space to add additional courtroom space in the Eastern Jackson County Courthouse.
The $7.3 million renovation project to the Independence courthouse will be completed at no additional expense to county taxpayers. Current estimates call for the renovations to be completed in late 2015 or early 2016.
"These are renovations that will work both financially for the county as well as long-term for the courthouse in terms of operations," said County Executive Sanders.