After 62 years, a facelift is in order.
The Union County Courthouse, which was built beginning in 1951, will undergo renovations now that it’s showing signs of wear.
“What started it was, other than needing a facelift, was to make it more handicap accessible,’” said Paul Boden, Union County building and maintenance supervisor.
According to Union County Clerk Allison Danilovich, the courthouse is “technically” compliant with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.
“We spoke with the (state) ADA compliance coordinator and he offered his opinion on what can be done.”
For now, jurors in wheelchairs sit next to, but outside, the jury box.
“It makes that person stick out like a sore thumb,” said Danilovich. “And, we don’t want that for that person.”
Danilovich said it made sense to make the modifications to the courtroom now as carpets are desperately needed.
“We don’t want to put down carpet that just has to be pulled up,” said Danilovich. “Right now, we are compliant, but in two or three years they might tell us no.”
A surface overhaul will include new carpets, tile and walls.
Behind the judge and witness stands, a large impression of the American Flag shows on the wall, which is entirely covered in aging cork. In the place of the impression, an actual American Flag was once displayed.
To make the courtroom more wheelchair accessible, the jury box will be dropped one step to make the entrance flush with the main floor of the court room. A court reporter box seat will be removed so that jurors in wheelchairs will appear to be part of the jury panel and not off to the side. Additionally, a ramp will be added to access the judge and witness stands.
The changes were decided by a committee consisting of Danilovich, Boden, District Court Judge, David. L. Christensen, Court Reporter Diana Schleisman, County Attorney Tim Kenyon, Union County Auditor Sandy Hysell, Union County Supervisor Ron Riley and Union County Sheriff Rick Piel.
“We met and talked about what needs to be done,” said Danilovich. “We aren’t going to do anything elaborate outlandishly expensive. We are paying particularly close attention to keeping things traditional. We don’t want to date it. We want it to have a classic look, but a very professional and stately look.”
Boden said the three-week project will begin in November.
“We chose that time frame because court schedule is a little lighter,” said Danilovich.
Boden is not sure how much the project will cost, as bids have not yet been received. However, the project will be funded by Union County, with the exception of a sound system, which will be paid for by funds allocated by the State of Iowa.
“It’s kind of embarrassing,” Danilovich said about the courtroom. “It’s been a long time coming.”