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Eastern Jackson County Courthouse Gets A Much-Needed Facelift

With a cacophony of banging gavels, county leaders and circuit court judges ushered in a new era for the Eastern Jackson County Courthouse.

Renovations on the 59-year-old courthouse were completed two weeks ahead of schedule, said County Executive Mike Sanders.

“This is another one of the major renovations that we’ve done in this county where we have not bonded,” Sanders said of the $7.3 million project. “We have not sacrificed the promise of tomorrow for the commitment of the day, but we are paying cash.”

Sanders praised county legislators for setting aside money for a courthouse badly in need of repair. Circuit Court Judge Marco Roldan recalled an unreliable HVAC system and a leaky roof.

“We always had a bucket right next to the witness chair in my courtroom,” Roldan said. “I would always have to warn them, ‘Watch the bucket because  it’s catching the water.’”

Roldan says he was constantly apologizing for the too-small jury room, too. Each week, the court would call 150 jurors, though there were only chairs for half of them.

Sanders says renovations were also necessary to account for population growth in the eastern part of the county. In 2013, 41 percent of cases were filed at the Eastern Jackson County Courthouse, though just 30 percent of judges in the 16th Circuit have courtrooms there.

As part of the renovations, courtrooms were added for five potential new divisions. (There are 19 currently.) The space came from offices that moved to the historic Truman Courthouse on the Independence Square when it reopened in 2013.

Sanders says judges and lawyers are often last on the list of needs the public finds necessary, but they’re essential for citizens seeking justice.

“If you work in the prosecutor’s office,” Sanders said, “making sure your cases can be heard in a timely fashion is a basic assumption, a basic right, and a basic need of any organized society and certainly any well-run community.”

Sanders pledged to continue to look for "financially prudent" ways to update out-of-date county facilities in the future.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

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