Apr 15, 2023

Courtrooms added to City

Beginning in January, people stopping by the City-County Building might have noticed some offices shifting locations and teams of construction workers navigating the building.

For the past six months there has been an ongoing project to remodel parts of the building to accommodate more judges and provide more courtroom space after a state mandate increased the number of district court judges in various parts of Kansas.

Court Administrator Todd Heitschmidt said the process for getting new judges has been a long time coming, but the change was abrupt.

"We've always been asking for more judges, and just never thought we'd get them," Heitschmidt said. "Then we got three at once."

New judges in District 28:Saline County to remodel part of city county building for new judges

The remodeling project will add two courtrooms and space for staff that will accompany two new district judges and a magistrate judge in the 28th Judicial District.

Funding was approved by the governor in spring of 2022 for the additional judicial roles, which prompted a quick process for the county to create space for those positions.

In addition to what was required, the remodeling project will add a space for jurors to check in and stay during the voir dire process.

Heitschmidt worked with County Administrator Phillip Smith-Hanes on logistics of creating space for additional court staff. Some county departments like Planning and Zoning, the County Administrators and County Attorney's office, and Appraiser's Office were relocated.

When adding a jury room, the construction team realized there was no plumbing in part of the building they were working in. Hutton Construction was challenged to safely navigate part of the third floor that overhangs the floors below.

Braden Holle with Hutton Construction said the plumbing to the jury room on the third floor had to be routed to second-floor plumbing. But it was a challenge with the concrete beams that go around the perimeter of the building.

"As it goes between each floor structure it gets more challenging," Holle said.

In the ceilings of the third floor were old copper wire telephone switching equipment from the 60s that Holle's team had to remove.

"One of the construction guys, I think, described this building as a beast," Smith-Hanes said. "This building was built in the late 60s, kind of fallout shelter era of time so there are a lot of these columns that are really reinforced."

The courtroom on the third floor, and part of the first floor, including a public entrance, is expected to be complete toward the end of June.

More remodeling on the third floor, which includes the juror check-in space and reception, is expected to be complete around October this year.

Note: A previous version of this article named Harbin Construction as the contractor for the courtroom remodeling project. Hutton Construction is the company completing the project. The Salina Journal regrets this error and thanks you for your readership.

Kendrick Calfee has been a reporter with the Salina Journal since 2022, primarily covering county government and education. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @calfee_kc.

New judges in District 28: