Justice commission expects to investigate proposed justice center into 2022


The Boone County Justice Commission outlined some of its remaining questions regarding a proposed justice center project Nov. 8, with one of the commission’s co-chairs estimating the commission’s investigation into the need of the project would likely continue through the first quarter of 2022.

Boone County officials have proposed a justice center project that would expand the county jail to meet needs outlined in a feasibility study. The project is estimated to cost between $45 million and $50 million and would provide new or additional space for several county departments and offices. The county council has tasked the recently formed justice commission with investigating the need for the project, although commission and county council member Kevin Van Horn is confident the justice center will be built, adding that it’s a question of “when and how big.”

During an Oct. 28 town hall meeting, county officials unveiled designs for the project, which included a new probation and community corrections addition, sheriff’s administration addition, mental health housing unit addition, juvenile detention addition and coroner addition.

During the commission’s second meeting on Nov. 8, co-chairs Aaron Williams and Marcia Wilhoite announced the commission had established four work groups consisting of various Boone County officials and commission members. Following the Oct. 28 town hall meeting, each work group was tasked with investigating a specific aspect of the proposed project. A work group was assigned to investigate one of four areas: the jail’s flex space; mental health needs, the infirmary and morgue; community corrections, probation and prosecutor needs; and a space for juveniles.

The work groups are working through remaining questions the commission still has concerning floor space needs, how anticipated county growth will impact crime rates and soft costs.

“One thing that I think we are waiting for more information on is the soft costs,” Williams said. “How many correctional officers do we need? Just (for) the increase in water, electricity, natural gas? Additional medical personnel, custodial, grounds keeping? I believe food services would increase naturally. Routine maintenance costs? Those are just questions we are trying to get an understanding of because, at the end of the day, once you build the jail you still have to operate it.”

During a Boone County Council meeting the next day, Wilhoite said that the commission would likely continue investigating the project through the first quarter of 2022.

The commission meets at 6 p.m. at the Boone County 4-H Fairgrounds in the Witham Health Services Pavillion on the second Monday of each month.