Your Opinion: Use vacant upper floor for large courtroom

Dear Editor:

On April 16, the Cole County Commission will take a vote to either tear down the historic jail and sheriff’s house and build a new building at a cost of $1.7 million taxpayer dollars, or to renovate the existing jail and sheriff’s house to meet the needs of the court at a cost of $800,000.

However after attending the commission’s meeting on March 5, I discovered there is a more attractive option: the brand new $35 million jail that is located across the street from the Cole County Courthouse has an entire second floor sitting empty. Let me say that one more time, the second floor of the new $35 million jail that sits across the street from the Cole County Courthouse, is sitting empty and unused.

This space is already owned by the county and could easily be converted into a 2,200-square-foot courtroom with enough space left over for offices. Upon learning of this unused space I was confused as to why we were still having a discussion about the historic jail and sheriff’s house. In my mind the issue was solved. The county would use the existing space they already own, save taxpayers’ money, and people like me would be happy because there would be no need to demolish historic buildings that are so vital to downtown Jefferson City.

Sadly, Presiding Commission Marc Ellinger is determined to push ahead with his plan to demolish the historic jail and sheriff’s house. In fact, Ellinger completely dismissed the entire notion of moving across the street into space they already own; instead he pushed Western District Commissioner Kris Scheperle and Eastern District Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher to set a date to vote on the demolition or renovation of the jail and sheriff’s house.

Thankfully, both Scheperle and Hoelscher have taken a more cautious approach and have decided to study the issue further. Please contact your commissioner before a final vote is taken on April 16 and tell them to vote no to the demolition of the old jail and sheriff’s house.

These buildings are important to our downtown area and have a historical significance that can never be replaced once they are gone.

Presiding, Marc Ellinger, 573-634-9113, mellinger@colecounty.org

Eastern, Jeff Hoelscher, 573-634-9112, jhoelscher@colecounty.org

Western, Kris Scheperle, 573-634-9111, kscheperle@colecounty.org