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New Warren County Courthouse Clears Major Hurdle But There is Still Work to Do

INDIANOLA, Iowa -- After years of budget battles and failed votes, Warren County will finally be getting a new courthouse and jail, but Tuesday’s special election victory isn't the end of the story.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors’ proposal to bond for under 30 million dollars worked.  The measure passed with nearly 70% support. However, the 29.9 million-dollar proposal is less than the initial estimates for what the courthouse would cost to build.

Now there's a question of where they make up the difference.

“The board of supervisors has committed $1.2 million, so that makes $31.1 million that is devoted to this.  So where is the $1.9 million that's going to be needed to make it to the $33 million and that's not including the steel tariffs that may affect this price” said County Supervisor Crystal McIntyre.

Aside from making it less of a burden on tax payers, McIntyre says staying under 30 million dollars was a sticking point for board chair Doug Shull. The question now will be whether to make up the remaining 1.9 million by cutting costs or using the money they pledged plus reserve funds; McIntyre wants the latter.

“I'm hoping we'll be able to use that plus more to make up any other gaps so that our users can get the building that they need, again, to protect the taxpayer because they don't want to come back and redo this building because we ran out of space for them” she said.

Brenda Easter is president of the Indianola Chamber of Commerce. She says keeping the courthouse downtown is huge for the businesses surrounding it.

“It'll bring more foot traffic, there's going to be a lot more awareness, the businesses will always benefit by having more street traffic and foot traffic” she said.

With the old courthouse coming down and the new one to be built in its place, Easter says it's a chance to rebrand the square and build for the future.

“When you think about it, we're building for tomorrow, so what we put on the square today is something that generations will enjoy” said Easter.

Meanwhile, residents are just happy that the old building closed due to mold, overcrowding, and ventilation issues, is coming down.

“It's old and it was shut down because it was unsafe. So, if it's unsafe what's the point of keeping it around?” said Brenda Bassanmas.

The project will raise property taxes by about 100 dollars per year for the average homeowner. McIntyre hopes to have a plan submitted for bid by December or January.