Engineers and architects have said the structure is sound. The building’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing infrastructure is in good condition. Renovations that can be done with free federal aid money would improve security features and create at least two more courtrooms. The building is capable of serving at least another generation, we’re told. The sheriff’s department is moving to the Platte County Resource Center and then the prosecutor is vacating the third floor of the courthouse to move to the sheriff’s spot, so that frees up 3,000 square feet.
And yet the judges still want–key word being want–a new courthouse?
“Sounds to me like somebody just wants a new place to go to work,” said an astute Landmark reader in a phone call this week.
Last week Fox 4 did a news piece on the new courthouse idea. Fox 4 said Judges Tom Fincham and Ann Hansbrough gave statements that Fox 4 could use but both judges declined to go on camera, according to Fox 4.
That struck me as interesting. Call me old-fashioned but typically public officials who are wanting to ask taxpayers for hundreds of millions of dollars for a new place to go to work should be willing to go on camera to talk about such things.
Remember the days when a lot of people on the street would recognize Platte County judges? Not so today. If Fincham and Hansbrough walked down any busy street in Platte County I bet 98 percent of the general public would have no idea who they are. Not saying that’s bad, not saying that’s good, not saying it’s right, not saying it’s wrong. Just saying it’s different than in the past.
Names and faces like Lee Hull, Abe Shafer, Jim Van Amburg, even Dennis Eckold were known to folks far and wide. Those judges were often out and about in the community. Hull and Shafer typically popped in at a large public Christmas party every year. I remember frequenting a downtown Weston establishment on many occasions in the mid-to-late 90s and often seeing Judge Hull walk in and hang out at a spot near the front door for long stretches of time, chatting with folks who passed by. It was common to see Van Amburg walking up and down Main Street in Platte City, greeting people along the walks he took, we assume for exercise, fresh air or perhaps just back and forth for a haircut at Ronnie Pine’s. It was also common to bump into Van Amburg at the local post office, as well. Eckold consistently popped into The Landmark office just to chat, to say his wife was curious as to why Chris Kamler dressed like a lumberjack on Landmark Live, and sometimes just to renew his subscription in person. I also would run into Judge Eckold at the Hy-Vee on Barry Road and chat some more.
Again, I’m not saying one way or the other makes a judge a better judge. I’m sure all of our current judges are good at the judging thing. I’m just saying it’s probably easier to push for extravagant taxpayer spending proposals if you’re not out and about among the people, making yourself available for chats with the folks who would be paying the bill.
For clarification, going to Bar Association meetings or events specific to lawyers and lawyering doesn’t count as being out and about among the people. In other words, it doesn’t count to be speaking with a crowd of lawyers who most likely feel obligated to agree with what the judge in the room is saying.
County commissioners have got to be thinking maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to give judges, prosecutors and the sheriff the power of making appointments to a committee whose assignment was “to help find solutions to an overcrowded detention facility.” In some ways that’s similar to putting the foxes in charge of the hen house. The committee has strayed from its course and now has branched off into discussion of a new courthouse. Talk about creating a monster. Could turn out to be a major political regret, in particular if a ballot proposal that would cause harm to Downtown Platte City gets taken to the woodshed by voters.
Assigning a ‘dream team’ like that always had the potential of kissing a reasoned approach goodbye. The fear now is that the reasoned approach has already walked out the door.
It came to my attention on Tuesday afternoon that there is an online petition on the courthouse topic now at change.org. The petition seeks to keep the Platte County Courthouse in Downtown Platte City.
If you’d like to sign the petition or at least give it a read, go to change.org/p/keep-platte-county-courthouse-in-platte-city
According to the post on change.org, the petition was started by Sarah Rudis. In comments posted with her petition, Sarah Rudis says, in part:
“Here are just a few reasons I feel the courthouse is an integral part of our community.
“Historical Significance: The courthouse on Main Street in Platte City has a rich history, serving as a symbol of the town’s development and growth over the years. Preserving historical landmarks is essential to maintain the community’s identity and heritage.
“Economic Impact: The courthouse on Main Street contributes to the local economy by attracting visitors who may patronize nearby businesses, including restaurants, shops, and services. Its presence supports local entrepreneurs and employment opportunities.
“Landmark and Identity: The courthouse is an iconic landmark that helps define Platte City’s identity. It often features prominently in local events, parades, and celebrations, reinforcing the town’s unique character.
“Architectural Beauty: The courthouse’s architecture adds to the aesthetic appeal of Main Street. Its historical design and grandeur enhance the overall ambiance of the area, making it a more attractive destination for residents and tourists alike.
“Environmental Considerations: Keeping the courthouse on Main Street promotes walkability and reduces the need for additional transportation infrastructure, aligning with sustainability and environmental conservation goals.
(Get more wild and crazy courthouse talk from Foley at email@example.com)