PROPOSED SOLUTION

Linn County has been resourceful over the years in adapting existing buildings to accommodate expanding functions and growth. County officials and citizens reviewing overall facility utilization feel that it is time to comprehensively address current and future needs to meet space requirements, comply with standards and codes, save energy and provide for the safety of prisoners, citizens and personnel. A comprehensive plan is the most cost-effective option of addressing all of the needs because many of the general condition costs associated with construction are consolidated into a single bid rather than added onto several smaller project bids. Additionally, construction costs historically trend upward over time making future projects more expensive.

The Commission is proposing to the citizens of Linn County the consolidation of County facilities into two facilities: A Justice Center and A Government Administration Center. The existing Prosecutors Office will be returned to its original use as a County Health Department, The District Courts Building will become a part of the Government Administration Center and house County office spaces. The repurposing of the Historic Courthouse is receiving further review to determine its best use, possibly as a location to bring together the many different County museums currently housed in multiple buildings and/or as a small events center. Money from the proposed sales tax has been earmarked to begin Courthouse renovations. Because of the environmental concerns and physical deficiencies of the existing jail, it is recommended the existing building be demolished and the land be used for much needed public parking.

Justice Center

By consolidating all of the County’s Judicial and Law Enforcement functions into one facility, a single, secure entrance makes it possible to monitor and control access to the facility cost-effectively by not only saving on construction costs, but also staffing and operational costs. This new facility will house:

  • A new 68-96 bed Jail
  • Sheriff’s Department including Sheriff’s Office, administrative staff
    and investigators’ offices, evidence processing/storage, and
    911/Dispatch
  • District Courts with two courtrooms, one of which is capable of
    accommodating 100-120 people
  • Court Administrators’ offices and Judges’ Chambers
  • Prosecutor’s Offices
  • Attorney’s conference facilities
  • Prisoner visitation

Government Administration Center

A new building will be constructed which annexes to the existing Historic Courthouse and District Courts building. By doing this, a single secure entrance near the public parking can serve all three facilities which will become the location of

  • Courthouse administrative (non-judicial) offices, such as Treasurer,
    County Clerk, Register of Deeds, etc. in the new building
  • Commission meeting room and offices in the vacated District Courts
    building

THE PROPOSED SOLUTION ADDRESSES THE NEED

Sheriff’s Offices and Jail

The Sheriff’s Offices and Jail will become part of the new Justice Center across Main Street on land already owned by the County and will:

  • A single, secure entrance serves both the Law Enforcement and Court
    activities
  • Improve the environmental quality for prisoners and County personnel
  • Be energy efficient and more economical to run
  • Have adequate Sheriff’s Department space for proper evidence storage,
    911/Dispatch, and IT functions
  • Have 68-96 jail beds in a podular design which allows the Sheriff to
    classify prisoners into appropriate groups
  • Allow for improved intake and booking with diagnostic and medical
    evaluations of prisoners prior to placement in general population
  • Eliminate the external movement of prisoners to court
  • Comply with ADA and all Jail standards

The District Courts Building

Moving both courtrooms, one from both the District Courts Building and one from the 2nd floor of the Courthouse, into the new Judicial Center improves efficiency and security in a number of significant ways:

  • The secure entrance of the Judicial Center serves both the Law
    Enforcement and Court activities
  • Prisoners will no longer need to be escorted outside for court
    appearances, improving security for the public and staff.
  • Needed accommodation for ADA is achieved with ground floor access and
    new accessible restrooms
  • District Courts will have two courtrooms, one of which is capable of
    accommodating 100-120 people
  • Arrangement of the Courts, Court Administrators’ offices and Judges’
    Chambers will feature secure, separate circulation of judges, court
    clerk/staff, prisoners, defendants and the public will occur

The Prosecutor’s Office Building

The Prosecutor’s Office needs to be in close proximity to the District Courts because of the interaction of prosecutors in the courtrooms with judges and judicial staff. To achieve this improved function, the Prosecutor’s Offices will be moved to the new Judicial Center and this building will return to its original function as the County Health Department.

The Historic County Courthouse

Vacating the County Courthouse will allow a number of renovations to take place and bring the facility into compliance with current building codes. Code requirements become less stringent and therefore, less costly, when the occupancy level is reduced below 50. That will be a consideration in the repurposing of this historic facility, possibly as a site for multiple County museums. The goal of repurposing and renovations is to allow Linn County’s beautiful Courthouse to remain a viable part of the community. Renovations under consideration include:

  • An elevator addition to allow disabled visitors access to the second
    floor
  • ADA compliance of restroom(s) and an exterior entrance
  • Restorations to the Courthouse exterior to preserve the historic building, including mansard repairs, energy saving replacement windows, tuck-pointing, and stone repairs