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County Leaders Split on Splitting Justice Ctr Projects

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- Johnson County officials are once again scratching their heads over how to get 60 percent of voters to support a new courthouse, jail, or justice center, as they go back to the drawing board to draft a third version of the project. 
"We've won twice with not enough majority, so what do you do now?" said county supervisor Janelle Rettig. 
One option is to scale down the justice center project yet again. At a meeting Thursday afternoon, the Board of Supervisors said the county could take the original five-story building and knock it down to fewer floors or multiple buildings -- limiting the expansions the county could make in the number of jail beds and the breadth of court services. 
"I'm for resolving both of the serious space, safety, and security issues that we have with not only the courthouse but also the jail," Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said. 
Another option is to split the jail and courthouse into two separate ballot referendums, so voters could pick both of them, one or the other, or neither of them. 
"I think if the voters are tired of a justice center, that's our next option," Rettig said. 
Or, the county could do more to vet the public's concerns, something the county tried to do in a series of recent public hearings. That did not give the board much in the way of public opinion, Rettig said. 
"But they don't agree with each other, and I think that shows (at this meeting). We don't agree with each other with on what to do next," Rettig said. 
Pulkrabek said, no matter what, any option might be easier to design if the county owned the General Services Administration parking lot south of the courthouse. It would provide the county more space for a project now -- or expansion in the future. 
"I don't want to make the same mistake they made back in the late 1970s," Pulkrabek said. "The current jail is landlocked." 
Johnson county officials may be close to making a deal with the GSA to purchase the lot, Pulkrabek said. It would likely cost the county the price of a 200-space parking ramp as well as an additional $500,000. 
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