Boone County officials provide updates on justice center project, timeline

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly indicated the proposed justice center would have needed to be approved by the fourth quarter of 2020 to meet its completion goal. It must be approved by the fourth quarter of 2021 to meet its completion goal, according to county officials.

During an Oct. 28 Town Hall meeting, members of the Boone County Board of Commissioners and other county officials shared information about a proposed multi-million-dollar justice center project, saying it needs to be financially approved by the Boone County Council in the fourth quarter of 2021 to meet its completion goal.

Boone County officials have proposed a justice center that would include an expansion of the county jail to meet needs outlined in a jail feasibility study and reports from county department heads of space constraints in their respective departments. The project is expected to cost between $45 million and $50 million and would provide space for several county departments and offices. Designs for the project include a new probation and community corrections addition, sheriff’s administration addition, mental health housing unit addition, juvenile petition addition and coroner addition.

However, the majority of the Boone County Council, which must approve financing the project, has expressed concern that the need has not been thoroughly explored. The council created the Boone County Justice Commission and assigned a number of county officials to it to continue discussions. The commission meets once a month to assess the project until commission members make a final recommendation to the council.

Boone County Commissioner Jeff Wolfe said the bond would likely be paid for by increasing the county’s local income tax from 1.5 percent to 1.7 percent.

Previously, the commissioners encouraged the council to approve the project by Oct. 31, 2021.

“The reason for the Oct. 31 date was that if we had gotten the tax approved by the Oct. 31 date, we would start collecting that tax on Jan. 1, 2021,” Wolfe said. “That would have allowed us to pull about $5 million to $6 million in the first year that we could have used for all the soft costs, furniture, computers, things like that that are going to be needed for the facility. Now, because we didn’t get that done, it becomes a part of the bond, so it increases the size of the bond, and we’ll be paying interest on that stuff instead of paying cash for it.”

The commissioners say approving the project as soon as possible is important because they expect the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates as it eases stimulus measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning the project could potentially cost millions more during the life of the bond.

“There’s still an urgency,” Wolfe said. “The longer we wait, the more building costs are going to increase.”

Assuming the project is approved by the council by the fourth quarter of 2021, construction would begin in the third quarter of 2022 and be completed in the fourth quarter of 2023, officials said during the town hall.

Wolfe hoped the information presented during the town hall, which will be available on when the website goes live, answered any questions the commission might still have.

“We saw the floor plans tonight. The commission is going to meet and go through those floor plans,” county council member and commission co-chair Marcia Wilhoite said after the meeting. “We have groups that are going to look at each area, and then they’ll generate questions. That’s how we are planning on working this commission.

“We are not trying to postpone anything. Our goal is to get it done sooner rather than later.”


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