New law increases pressure for expanded courthouse

jury

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Saline County Commission is being told that a new law increases pressure to renovate or expand the county courthouse, at a time when the county has no room in the budget for the project.

The new law, which takes effect July 1, allows district judges to conduct jury trials on municipal court appeals. Currently, such appeals are heard only by judges.

Court administrator Todd Heitschmidt told the commissioners Tuesday that several options could be used to create another courtroom in the courthouse, including using a storage room or the county attorney’s office, The Salina Journal reported.

“Can we get by without one?” Commission Chairman Randy Duncan asked. “We don’t have that in the budget.”

Duncan said the county would like to add a courtroom but it isn’t practical because commissioners are trying to plan a budget with no property tax increase.

The courthouse has four main courtrooms and one smaller courtroom for its five judges.

Heitschmidt said the county has needed a new courtroom for some time. He said state law requires county commissioners to “adequately fund” court services, and that at least one more judge could be appointed for the 28th Judicial District, which includes Saline County.

The county would need a cost estimate for any courthouse changes by July 7 to include the project in the 2015 budget.

Another factor in the decision is what the county will do with its jail. An advisory committee has recommended that the current jail be renovated to include 344 beds, the sheriff’s office, county attorney’s office and court services. The cost of construction was estimated at $43.37 million.

At last week’s meeting, commissioners were told that a smaller project that would increase the jail from 192 to 344 beds, make minor renovations to the booking and female housing areas, and add a medical unit would reduce costs to $20.4 million.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus