A look inside Wright County’s Justice Center
In May of 2018, Wright County locals traveling on Hwy. 25, between Buffalo and Monticello, began to see a new project being constructed next to the Wright County Sheriff’s Office and Jail. This project consisted of the new Justice and Government Center buildings, which would serve as a much-needed update to the current Government Center in downtown Buffalo. It has been long anticipated, with the County Board having looked at several options for the past 10 years. Now, the Justice Center, home to the county’s nine courtrooms, is open and ready to serve.
“There were numerous concerns expressed by the 10th Judicial District about the size of the courtrooms, the inaccessibility of technology that didn’t exist when they were constructed, and safety issues,” County Communications Specialist John Holler said. “The county didn’t have much in the way of alternatives because there was no additional space to house the courts and, as the county has continued to grow, so have the needs in the courts.”
The new Justice Center offers spacious courtrooms, with the additional design feature of rectangular windows near the top on one wall, allowing natural sunlight to filter in. The County Attorney’s Office, Department of Corrections, Court Administrations, and additional county departments previously located in the downtown center now call the building home.
The contemporary, clean elements of the building add to the feeling of importance of the work being conducted within its walls. Floor-to-ceiling windows wrap around the outer walls, and no office space is without direct sunlight. The bathrooms are finished off with motion-sensing, contact-free faucets and hand dryers. Even the sections are strategically mapped out, with all public spaces neatly grouped and stacked together, eliminating the need to meander through the entire building.
A convenient connection to the jail offers a direct corridor to ensure secure inmate transfer to and from the jail and in-custody courtroom, along with several visitation spaces for inmates to meet with their attorneys. Because of the building’s layout and sections, this space is separated from the staff and public.
Open for Business
An open house for the public to see the new Justice Center was originally planned for this fall, but due to COVID-19, Wright County workers are getting creative with showing locals the space while staying safe. Once the finishing touches are added to the building, a team will be working on a virtual presentation for everyone to watch online.
Looking at the grandeur of the building, one would be curious to know how much the project cost. The Justice Center’s construction came in at $41,952,575, and the total amount for the project came in at $46,961,209. Though these numbers seem high at first glance, building new versus refurbishing the current Government Center actually comes out at a much lesser cost. For just the Government Center alone, a study found that the cost of refurbishing would come in at approximately $20 million, and that would only add about 10 years to its “shelf life.” Investing millions into a refurbish project would only add to the investment, when constructing an entirely new building would be just shortly down the road. For the new Justice and Government Centers, both facilities are expected to serve the needs of the county for the next 40-50 years.
With the excitement of the Justice Center opening and staff moving into their new offices, eyes are now on the building next door, the Government Center. This building will house all remaining county departments not in the Justice Center, which includes: Administration, Assessor, Auditor/Treasurer, Extension, IT, Planning and Zoning, Recorder and Veterans Services. It will also have space for Health and Human Services. With construction steadily underway, the project is expected to be completed and ready for move-in September of 2021.