The Dubuque County Board of Supervisors is considering a study on possible upgrades to the county courthouse and Old Jail focused around the Veterans Affairs Department.
This week, Supervisors Dave Baker and Jay Wickham said they would like to get more information from consultant RDG Planning & Design on renovation ideas that would include how to add off-street parking for handicapped residents, as well as looking at the aesthetics of the property shared by the courthouse and Old Jail.
The county’s third supervisor, Ann McDonough, questioned whether such a project was a priority and reiterated her desire to see the board engage in more long-term planning to ensure tax dollars are spent wisely.
“I’m going to be a ‘no’ on this project until there is some kind of strategic plan and I can see where this fits with all of the other needs that are before the county,” she said.
Wickham said he approached RDG officials about a study that would, in part, examine handicapped parking options for those accessing the Veterans Affairs Department in the Old Jail off East Eighth Street.
He also noted that, while the county has done extensive remodeling at the courthouse in recent years, “we’ve got a really basic and ugly backyard that I think could use some improvements and be more of a public space and a public asset.”
Right now, the rear of the courthouse, facing White Street, is used as a parking lot for county and court employees.
Wickham received an initial proposal from RDG for a study that would cost $24,500. Wickham said he envisions the study including stakeholders and community members offering input on improvements.
“I started with the intent of honoring veterans and associating (upgrades) with the veterans affairs office,” he said. “That doesn’t have to be the end result, but I would like to lead with that.”
Wickham said he reached out to veterans affairs staff and the county veterans commission to gauge their interest.
Veterans Affairs Executive Director Randy Rennison told the supervisors that he would be very supportive of a facelift for that area.
Baker said he liked the idea of improving access for veterans, as the current handicapped parking spots are metered spaces on the street.
McDonough said she believed the board should take more time to consider the project before paying for a study. She noted that the county could have other large expenses in the future, including the expansion of local mental health services, so she would like to see the board start a strategic planning process to map future expenses.
Wickham said the supervisors can revisit the topic at their June 24 meeting to get more feedback from RDG and stakeholders. However, he and Baker said they believe there is a parking need that can be addressed and that they did not want to delay that for a strategic planning process.