Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew announces election and other operations will relocate this summer from the first floor of the Douglas County Courthouse in downtown Lawrence to leased space in The Malls Shopping Center on the southwest corner of 23rd and Louisiana streets. The new location is the former site of Epic Fun, 711 W. 23rd St., Suite 1, which is next to Rent-A-Center. The location is 8,510 square feet and will provide more space, parking and accessibility for staff, poll workers and voters.
The relocation is part of Douglas County’s master plan to address space needs. A 2017-2019 study conducted by Gould Evans identified election operations as the largest user of space in the Courthouse and concerns about overcrowding during elections. The recommendation was to find another space.
“The Douglas County Courthouse is an iconic structure but it cannot support the functions of a large county, especially during large elections,” Shew said. “The new space will not only reduce stress on the Courthouse, but it will improve the experience of citizens as they interact with our office.”
The new location is being renovated and will have a 1,417-square-foot voting lobby that is designed to comply with federal American with Disabilities Act guidelines with a zero-step entry, wheelchair-accessible counter, and improved lighting. The area is more than double the size of the lobby area on the first floor of the Courthouse. Election results will be announced in a large community meeting room, where staff, candidates and media will be able to gather and watch monitors. The room will be available to community organizations or county operations for meetings and events. Additionally, it will be used for trainings and educational programming.
The building has a loading dock in addition to a warehouse area, which is secured through controlled access and alarms. It also will have equipment tracking systems that will allow tracking when something is moved within and outside the building. The Clerk’s Office will be one of the first election offices in the country to implement the equipment detection and tracking systems in the warehouse.
The location will enable staff to work from one location. The elections office has five employees including Shew. They work with approximately 300 poll workers during elections. During the last election, staff worked in a temporary South Iowa Street location, in the Courthouse, and at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, where equipment is stored and tested.
In addition to elections, Homestead Tax Refund filing, Cereal/Malt Beverage Licenses and Fish/Game Licenses will move to the new location. The real estate, accounts payable and payroll divisions will remain in the Courthouse.
The Clerk’s Office is utilizing existing capital reserves and grant funding to support the pre-payment of the lease for two years, construction costs and installation of security features. The renovation work is estimated to cost about $495,000 and is being completed by The Wilson Group. The total project costs, including furnishings, will be about $637,000. Starting in 2023, the lease for the space – approximately $100,000 annually - will need to be included in the Clerk/Elections budget.
Shew will be mailing information to voters about the new location and signage will be posted at the Courthouse.
The space currently occupied by elections will be repurposed and used by services currently offered inside the Courthouse.
For information about voting and elections in Douglas County, visit: douglascountyelections.com.