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Vote "Yes" On The Polk County Courthouse Referendum

October 31, 2013

Greater Des Moines (DSM) has been working to further the development of a vibrant Downtown. On November 5, Polk County residents have a crucial decision to make regarding that effort when they head to their polling place to fill out their ballot. By marking “yes” next to the Polk County Public Safety Judicial Systems Bond, residents have the chance to authorize a three-phase building project designed to consolidate Polk’s judicial apparatus, modernize its security, and create new uses for currently empty buildings. In the process, the measure will create between 800 and 1,000 construction jobs and breathe new life into one of the last remaining dull pockets of Downtown. 

Roughly 500,000 visitors a year now pass through Polk’s courthouse, which was designed to function with four courtrooms when it was built in 1906, but now contains 28, counting the ones that have been shoehorned into off-site locations. Also, the building does not meet current security and safety needs. Families stressed by conflict or victimized by crime are routinely forced by courthouse space constraints to share crowded hallways with hardened criminals.

The Nov. 5th referendum calls for moving various agencies into a vacant office building north of the courthouse that the county recently obtained via a land swap with Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which will save the county more than $582,000 a year by avoiding rent on currently leased office space. Phase Two involves revamping the old Polk County Jail into a Criminal Courts Annex and creating 13 criminal courtrooms in a facility that would be vastly more secure than the current courthouse. The final phase would mean restoring the existing courthouse into a lower-security place for handling wills and guardianships and for trying civil lawsuits.

This plan is both cost effective and efficient and has the added benefit of keeping the courthouse relevant to the Downtown Des Moines resurgence going along around it. The Downtown Fleming, Des Moines and former Younkers buildings, as well as the Randolph Hotel, all have major renovation projects that are now in some phase of planning or construction. Major work is being considered for the Downtown Walnut Street landscape. Several blocks farther to the north, the new Wellmark YMCA is expected to break ground sometime next year.

This is a measure that is important to the resurgence of Downtown and the Partnership hopes you consider voting “Yes” on the Polk County Public Safety Judicial System Bond.

About the Greater Des Moines Partnership

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization that serves Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa. Together with 23 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce, more than 6,100 Regional Business Members and more than 330 Investors, The Partnership drives economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region. Through innovation, strategic planning and global collaboration, The Partnership grows opportunity, helps create jobs and promotes DSM as the best place to build a business, a career and a future. Learn more at DSMpartnership.com.