Security concerns hamper relocation of attorney’s office

The prosecutor wants to move to a bigger space.
Monday, February 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:34 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

County commissioners are divided over the possibility of moving the prosecuting attorney’s office to the third floor of the Roger B. Wilson Boone County Government Center because of the office’s need for metal detectors and security guards.

“My biggest concern is how we would deal with the security,” Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said. “I don’t want to change the culture of the building for the public.”

Miller worries about the public reaction to additional security.

“When they come in to pay their taxes or look up real estate information or talk to their county officials, they shouldn’t have to go through a metal detector,” Miller said. “They don’t mind it in the courthouse; they expect it. The government center should remain easily accessible to the people.”

Talk of what to do with the third floor of the government center is part of a larger effort by county officials to address a variety of space needs.

A rising number of court cases have caused a space crunch in the courthouse annex, forcing the county to create more space for offices and records storage. That project, not expected to begin until 2007 or 2008, would cost the county $8 million to $10 million, Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin said.

The offices for juvenile justice and the public defender also have immediate space problems. County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Crane approached the commission late last year about relocating his office to the government center, saying he needed more space as soon as possible and cannot afford to wait until the county follows through on a plan to add two floors to the Boone County Courthouse annex.

“We’ve got a finite amount of space to work with, and over the years, it’s only logical that we would expand,” Crane said. “I was the one who raised the idea because I think we’re obligated to explore this option.”

Crane and his staff members have 7,378 square feet of space in their courthouse office. The proposed new office in the government center would have 9,375 square feet, more than a 27-percent increase.

Officials estimate that renovating the third floor of the government center would cost $2 million to $3 million.

“It may be the only way we could get more immediate space,” Crane said. “The courthouse is designed to go up two floors, but that would be a very expensive undertaking.”

County officials don’t know when any project would turn from scenario to reality. Boone County Presiding Commissioner Keith Schnarre said a final decision probably won’t come until early 2005.

“We’re waiting for the architect to give us the final plans,” Schnarre said. “It’s a lot more complicated than we originally thought, and it could take all year.”

Elkin said the county has no money available immediately to begin work on expanding the courthouse annex. There is around $3 million available, however, from accumulated bond revenue and savings during the past decade, he said.

“We’re not going to touch the courthouse until we figure out what we want to do with the government center,” Elkin said. “We have $3 million to work with to buy us that five-year time frame until we can start on the courthouse.”

Crane said putting additional security in the government center is an option, but nothing is set in stone.

“That is one issue among several unresolved issues,” he said. “We would have to approve the move before we started discussing adding security.”

Despite Crane’s pleas for immediate help, the process has moved slowly. Schnarre attributed that to the magnitude of the project.

“It’s a tough decision, one of our priorities,” Schnarre said. “We don’t want to have to redo it later.”

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