Boone County Wants More Money for Courthouse
Courthouse employees want voters to approve a one-fifth-cent sales tax during Tuesday's election. Part of the tax would raise $14 million over three years to renovate and expand on the courthouse.
They held public tours throughout the afternoon to convince people to see the problems for themselves.
Officials say they need more privacy in the building. They say they handled about 10,000 cases last year, but they don't have enough room for the prosecutors, jurors or witnesses. The room where courthouse officials interview witnesses and victims is out in the open, giving no privacy to visitors.
One of the prosecuting attorney's office used to be a witness and victim interview room. Officials say they could really use another attorney, and they have the money, but not the space. And they say it's a tight situation for employees, too.
Drug Court Administrator Pete Schmersahl's room used to be a hallway, and his makeshift walls fall apart. He says his room is too small for the big job he has to do.
"We've come down here, unfortunately, with the holding area just behind us," he explained. "I can't bring clients back here. I have to take them out and hope to get one of the conference rooms outside the courthouse."
Columbia's Grass Roots Organizing members oppose the tax, but were not available for an on-air interview. They say courthouse officials should work through the legislative process to maintain their courthouses, rather than tax the poor. The vote will be on Tuesday's ballot.
The courthouse hasn't been renovated since 1995. If voters approve the tax, the $14 million will pay for three years of work on the courthouse and the Boone County Government Center.