Centralization and safety are two of the goals behind the construction happening along South German Lane.
Construction for the new criminal justice building broke ground Jan. 29, and crews are out working on the new location for Faulkner County’s criminal justice needs.
The new facility will be a four-story building with seven courtrooms and offices for the circuit judges, the prosecuting attorney, the probation office and the all the accompanying staff.
In addition, there will be space for staff and personnel of the circuit clerk, county clerk and sheriff’s department.
County Administrator Jeff Johnston said over the past few years the county offices have outgrown the current facilities.
“It’s harder for the citizens, the people, to be able to access the services they need through the criminal justice center and system,” Johnston said.
That is when the plan to build an all-inclusive criminal justice center was born. The goal is to give citizens “a one-stop shop where they can meet with their prosecutors, they can go to court, they can have access to the legal system,” Johnston said.
Circuit Court Judge Ed Clawson said the new space will also help the judiciary serve the needs of the county residents.
“We will have more usable space that will let all five judges have the ability to schedule their dockets to help move cases along,” he said in an email. “I just believe the overall administration of justice will be improved.”
Safety is also a concern that will be addressed with the new building.
“Where they are now the judges have very little security,” Johnston said. “We’ve seen nationally there are security concerns, especially in a court setting or a court building. This building offers the best security that we can possibly provide.”
The judges will have secure parking, elevators and entryways into the courtrooms.
Inmates coming to court will travel through a secure delivery system and there will be security cells in each courtroom.
“It’s a maximum-security situation along the center columns of the building to where you look at less of a threat of any bystanders getting hurt,” Johnston said.
Other citizens will also have their own entrance with security features and screening areas.
Funding for the new building has been in the works for several years.
“Five years ago the quorum court started sequestering $1 million a year into a fund for building and maintenance so that we could save up the money to pay for this building,” Johnston said.
The bids on the building itself are at $8 million. The road fund is paying for the parking lots, and aside from the $5 million saved up, the county has a $5 million line of credit for the project which will be paid back using that same sequestering, Johnston said.
Clawson said he has worked on the project for several years with the county judge’s office, the architects and the planners.
“No plan is perfect, but the county officials who have worked on this courts building have done the best to get the most for the taxpayer’s dollars,” he said. “I appreciate their efforts and believe the citizens will too when they can see the completed project.”
The construction for the building was put on a 36-month plan, bu t Johnston said he has been assured that work will actually be done earlier than that.
“We’re actually looking at moving into the building next calendar year,” he said.
(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)