OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — On Wednesday morning, county officials watched as the final steel beam was raised on the new Douglas County Justice Center. The new building is an expansion of the current Hall of Justice that was built in 1912.
"The growing space issues that we had have really been due to the growing number of issues with the criminal justice systems and the space we need in the Hall of Justice. Think about it, the courthouse was originally built in 1912 so you can see over the years the things that have changed and grown. We just constantly had a lot of space issues many of us dealt with," said Mary Ann Borgeson, Chair of the Douglas County Board. "This expansion is long overdue."
The new building will house the county attorney, the public defender and six juvenile courts. Those who will be eventually working in the new building say they desperately needed the space and are excited for the next chapter.
"The time has come. It’s necessary and we’re really looking forward to it. We would rather be staying in the courthouse but that’s not feasible. This is the next best alternative. It’s a very good alternative and it works out well," said Don Kleine, Douglas County Attorney. "It’ll bring my office together. We’re in four different locations right now and so it’s difficult to mange when everyone’s not in one place. It’s going to be very nice to be able to communicate a lot easier, to see everybody on a daily basis and walk down the hall and visit with their lawyers or support staff."
Kleine says in addition to more space, the new building will also bring new programs including research on the juvenile brain and psychiatric services for juveniles. He says the building and facilities will improve the criminal justice program for all Douglas County citizens.
Those opposed to the expansion say taxpayer money should've gone elsewhere.
"This is something to primarily benefit the developers, the architects and those who are money people," former State Sen. Ernie Chambers said.
The county anticipates being able to move in to the new building in June of 2023.