Johnson County is planning a November election for a quarter-cent sales tax to replace the county courthouse and build a new coroner facility. Since Kansas requires any sales tax levied by the county to be shared among cities, each of the northeast Johnson County cities would get money over the 10-year life of the tax if it passes voter approval.
Johnson County officials have been making the rounds of city councils lately to explain the case for the new courthouse and coroner facility and the supporting tax. District Attorney Steve Howe and Johnson County Commission Chair Ed Eilert appeared before the Merriam City Council last week.
The current county courthouse was built in 1952, replacing an original 1891 building. It had additions in 1954, 1968 and 1975. The building, Eilert told the Merriam council, has problems both with security and structural issues. Howe said the building does not allow inmates coming to court to be separated from the public. When being brought to court, they share public space with jurors, victims and the general public.
The current courthouse also needs additional courtrooms just to address ADA compliance, Eilert said, as well as more courtrooms for the current and future caseload. A new courthouse with 28 courtrooms, expandable to 36 in the future, is less costly than estimates to repair and expand the current building.
Besides $182 million to build the new courthouse across the street from he existing building, a $19 million project would build a new coroner lab near the Johnson County Crime Lab. Autopsies are now contracted to a private facility in Kansas City, Kan., that will not comply with upcoming accreditation standards. Howe said it can take months for some test results from the coroner lab.
The county’s share of the 10-year quarter-cent sales tax would pay for the new courthouse and the coroner lab. But 37 percent of the tax is distributed to Johnson County cities. Over the 10-year life of the tax, here is what some of the NEJC cities would receive:
- Prairie Village – $5.4 million
- Mission – $2.3 million
- Merriam – $3.3 million
- Leawood – $11.7 million
- Fairway – $1.1 million
- Mission Hills – $1.7 million
- Mission Woods – $69,000
- Overland Park – $42.7 million
- Roeland Park – $1.8 million
- Westwood – $397,000
- Westwood Hills – $104,000