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County commissioners might 'just say no' to additional courtroom

Published on -7/2/2014, 12:43 PM

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By Tim Horan

The Salina Journal

At their meeting Tuesday, Saline County commissioners discussed possibly delaying construction of an additional courtroom on the third floor of the City-County Building.

Todd Heitschmidt, district court administrator, told commissioners last week that the courtroom was needed because of a new law, effective Tuesday, that could result in more jury trials.

Heitschmidt said Tuesday that it could cost $429,000 to $650,000 to convert a file storage room into offices for the county attorney and the county attorney's office into a courtroom.

Commission Chairman Randy Duncan said furniture could add $100,000 to the cost.

Heitschmidt said District Judge Jerome Hellmer recommended that the project be approved in 2015 but for construction to begin and the project be funded in 2016.

Commissioner John Price said the county could ask for a study, at a cost of $40,000.

Duncan said he favored waiting a year.

No budget increase

"I didn't like this getting sprung on us," Duncan said. "I realize there was a change in the law. Let's try to manage. Maybe there will be an increase in appeals, maybe there won't be."

Rita Deister, county administrator, said the 2015 budget, which must be approved later this month, includes an increase of 0.121 in the property tax levy.

"We need to move. You have to do it fast," she said. "I can make it a flat increase, but I can't control income."

"We are going to have to figure in this $40,000 (for the courtroom study)?" asked Price.

Duncan said it is his desire, which is supported by the other two commissioners, to approve a budget with no increase.

"My slogan has been, 'Just say no!' " Duncan said.

(c)2014 The Salina Journal

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