Justice Center design, property acquisition go ‘hand-in-hand’

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It’s been a little more than a week since Proposition C.O.P.S. was approved at the April 6 municipal election. Now that the Perry County Commissioners know the result, they can get more serious in their discussions about the location of a new joint justice center and what it will look like.
“Getting a designer and the property together are the two things that we are (prioritizing because) they have to go hand in hand,” said presiding commissioner Mike Sauer Monday morning.
Property acquisition, design and architect plans, securing financing and construction are all part of the process. Those are a few of the details that will need worked out in the coming months.
Step one was getting the Proposition C.O.P.S. initiative approved.
Sauer said there isn’t a timeline in terms of when the county wants to acquire the land.
“We’re not set on a date yet,” he said. “We kind of all agree, we think it’ll be a year before we break ground, with everything designed and all that.”
It could possibly be pushed back a little further, up to 18 months, according to Perry County Clerk Jared Kutz.
Sauer understands the commission will have to be patient in the decision-making process as it finalizes design concepts and other fine-tuning.
“Tentatively, that is kind of the goal that I’ve got in the back of my mind, if we can get to that point in a year, in 12 months, we get this building built just a little bit quicker. At any given time here, we could get a roadblock that says, ‘Yeah, it’s gonna take 14, 15 months.’”
Voters are interested in where the justice center will be located.
“I’ve had five or six of them ask me where is it going to be built, have you decided,” Sauer said. “That’s in the process.”
Commissioner Jay Wengert has been met with a similar curiosity from constituents.
“Where’s it at?” Wengert asked rhetorically, relaying a question from residents. “We don’t know the tax just got passed,” is his reply.
“We haven’t locked in on any specific designer or builder yet,” Sauer said. “We’re trying to work through just exactly how we handle that process.”
“Like the courthouse, my opinion is everything that can be done local, needs to be done local,” Wengert said.
Sauer agreed that attempts will be made to keep work local “as best we can.”
As for design details, the commission is seeking places to grow for the county’s future needs.
“We want to have room to grow in this building, so we don’t have the same problem we’ve had down here. We move in and two years later we’ve outgrown it.”
“We will have the group that’s involved inside this building, we will continue to get more of their input as we do the design,” Sauer said. “Ultimately, we’ll make a decision with how it’s finally designed, but I want say 60 percent of that work has already been done, where we sit down, they give all their input on what they need. Their needs, their wants, what would be nice, all that good stuff will be taken into consideration.”
Now that the initiative has been adopted, that process can be reviewed, according to Sauer.
“We hit it again, (asking questions like), ‘What is it you absolutely have to have? What takes you down the road, 20, 25, 30 years?”
Kutz told the commission he is in the process of drafting a letter for the sheriff, coroner, judge and circuit clerk, congratulating them on the proposal getting adopted and explaining the commission is looking forward to working more closely with them on details of the justice center complex.

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