In response to recent criticisms directed at the Johnson County Commissioners from the public for decisions made concerning the new criminal justice center, the new judicial center, and a number of other projects in recent years, Commission Chair Smokey Wildeman has decided to speak out to set the record straight, so to speak, and defend the decisions and explain why they were made.
Wildeman tells us about the new Justice Center.
Wildeman said when the project was first being discussed by the previous commission, their objective was not to saddle the county with debt on the project. Money, he said, was in reserves for the project to be completed, according to the treasurer and clerk at the time, money that came directly from a more than $1 billion valuation in the county, thanks to the mineral industry.
The current Judicial Center, or new courtroom facilities, are now under construction, and again, he said reserve money is in the coffers and no debt will be incurred by the county.
Also, by building the courtroom facility now, with the engineers and contractors already on-site, the county was able to save millions of dollars on the project.
Originally, he said, voters defeated funding for the justice/judicial center because of the funding model, which would have cost nearly $40 million to taxpayers, $27 million to build and $13 million in interest.
The current project, he said, will cost $23 million for both the justice center and the judicial center, and will be totally paid off when the judicial center is completed.