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County seeks input on justice space

Seven listening posts scheduled, including in Solon and North Liberty

JOHNSON COUNTY– Johnson County officials will continue to seek ways to address its need for space within the county’s justice system, in a series of upcoming public meetings.
Three bond referenda to residents– in November 2000, November 2012 and May 2013– all failed to garner 60 percent voter approval, leaving a proposed new jail building and planned renovations to the existing courthouse to languish. While the majority of voters indicated their support for the estimated $46.8 million project, with 56 percent voting in support last November and 54 percent voting in favor in the May special election, Johnson County supervisors and Johnson County sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek fielded an array of criticism from opponents for months leading up to each of the public votes. Concerns ranged from the racial imbalance of Johnson County’s jail population to lack of transparency in the process to the size, scope and appearance of the building design.
Yet throughout the no-vote campaign, even the most vocal opponents of the proposed plan stated time and again; yes, there is an apparent lack of space to accommodate the volume of detainees and court cases, and yes, something should be done to address both.
Now the Johnson County Board of Supervisors is asking everyone to come to the drawing board to help figure it out.
The board has scheduled seven public listening posts in August, to be held at various locations throughout the county. Two supervisors will be in attendance at each meeting, and the board will hold an all-day work session Aug. 28 to discuss the input gathered. In addition, the supervisors are taking comments online at www.johnson-county.com/dept_survey.aspx?id=13603, at the email address sups@co.johnson.ia.us, or via phone at 319-356-6000. The county’s criminal justice coordinating committee will meet Sept. 4, with the hope that all the public input can culminate in some practical applications to deal with overcrowding. Information about the Johnson County jail and the planning process that led to the recent proposals can be found on the Johnson County website, at johnson-county.com. Click on the sheriff department homepage, and then justice center information button under Pulkrabek’s photograph.
Public input meeting schedule:
Saturday, Aug. 10, 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., Harvat Hall, Iowa City Council Chambers, 410 E. Washington St., Iowa City, with supervisors Janelle Rettig and John Etheredge.
Tuesday, Aug. 13, 7 until 8:30 p.m., North Liberty Community Center, Classroom C, 520 W. Cherry St., North Liberty, with supervisors Terrence Neuzil and Rod Sullivan.
Wednesday, Aug. 14, 10 until 11:30 a.m., Solon Public Library, 320 W. Main St., Solon, with supervisors Neuzil and Rettig.
Monday, Aug. 19, 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., Coralville Public Library, 1401 Fifth St., Coralville, with supervisors Neuzil and Etheredge.
Friday, Aug. 23, 9 until 10:30 a.m., Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center, Assembly Room, 28 S. Linn St., Iowa City, with supervisors Rettig and Pat Harney.
Sunday, Aug. 25, 4 until 5:30 p.m., Johnson County Administration Building, lower level conference room, 913 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City, with supervisors Harney and Sullivan
Monday, Aug. 26, 6:30 until 8 p.m., Lone Tree Community Building, 203-1/2 N. Devoe St., Lone Tree, with supervisors Harney and Etheredge.