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Committee Recommends One Lee County Courthouse

Jul 24, 2014

The group that has been reviewing Lee County government services has finished its work and made a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

The South Lee County Courthouse would close under a recommendation from the County Seat Advisory Committee.

The County Seat Advisory Committee was organized by Mary Van Pelt.  It met almost every week for about three months reviewing budget numbers, recent repairs, staffing levels and future needs.

The committee considered four options.

The committee's final recommendation is to build a single courthouse near the Lee County Jail outside Montrose.

It would replace four buildings.

  • North Lee County Courthouse (Fort Madison)
  • South Lee County Courthouse (Keokuk)
  • North Lee County Office Building (Fort Madison)
  • North Lee County Attorney's Office (Fort Madison)

The North Lee County Courthouse would also shut its doors under a recommendation from the County Seat Advisory Committee.

Van Pelt said the recommendation is based on facts and figures, not emotions, which have been dominating public perception.

"We know there are unhappy people with our recommendation, but it was a recommendation," Van Pelt said. "It was not the final decision."

The final decision is up to the supervisors.

The latest round of county seat talk started when the supervisors voted in 2011 to reorganize four departments, which eliminated drivers’ license services in Keokuk.

The centrally-located courthouse was not the only recommendation from the committee.

It also said the county should bring in an outside expert to further study the issue and give residents a chance to vote on whether there should be one courthouse or two.

The committee believes if a new courthouse is built, the Lee County Health Department should be moved to the North Lee County office building in Fort Madison.
    
It’s unclear when or even if the single courthouse recommendation will be considered by the supervisors.

Chairman Ernie Schiller, who has been pushing for one county seat for years, has five months remaining in his current term after being defeated in the June Primary.