MONTROSE, Iowa — Preliminary plans for a new courthouse in Lee County to replace courthouses in Keokuk and Fort Madison continue to take shape.

The project manager for the courthouse’s construction told the board Tuesday that officials have met with district judges to determine space and security requirements if a new court house is approved by voters, The Hawk Eye ( ) reports.

Lee County is the only county in the state with two functioning courthouses. A bond referendum on the November ballot seeks funding for the new, $8.5 million courthouse.

Supervisor Gary Folluo says there’s been a lack of transparency throughout negotiations about the courthouse. Board chairman Ron Fedler says there has been “no attempt by anybody to hide anything.”

“The idea behind this is to unite the county into one location, and hopefully to stop this North/South feud,” said Fedler, responding to criticism about the proposed courthouse. Fedler said that it was important to try and preserve as much of the old courthouses’ history as possible in the new courthouse.

Some officials say security isn’t adequate at the existing courthouses because of the way they were designed. The structures date back to the mid-19th century.

Three security officers work five days a week for both courthouses.

Mary Ann Brown, chief judge of Iowa’s Eighth Judicial District, emphasized her neutrality on whether a new facility should be built.

But she did describe the security issues to the board.

“One of our biggest problems, is that for criminal defendants … when the sheriff’s staff transports people to our court hearings, they have to walk right smack dab in the middle of the public,” Brown said.

Information from: The Hawk Eye,