The presiding judge of the Circuit Court of Jackson County on Thursday called it unacceptable that the 15-story Downtown Courthouse doesn’t have enough working elevators. He said it’s impairing the courts’ ability to function and violates state law that says the county has to maintain a courthouse in good working order.

“Again this week, I have discovered that the Kansas City Courthouse is plagued with only one operational public elevator,” Presiding Judge David M. Byrn wrote in a letter to County Executive Frank White Jr. “Unfortunately, this has become a regular occurence. It is also absolutely unacceptable.”

The courthouse is more than 80 years old, and the elevators are said to be original equipment. For several years, county officials have said they need to be replaced.

Normally four are available to the public, and even with four sometimes a visitor would have to wait a minute or so for one to arrive. But two have been out since February, when the courthouse was flooded, damaging offices and elevators. Now elevators users – Byrn says 2,000 people a day visit the courthouse – wait longer. For instance, jurors use the elevators when reporting to the third floor.

“Clearly,” the judge wrote, “the County is violating its statutory obligations regarding this courthouse, thereby impairing the administration of justice and negatively impacting the citizens and taxpayers of Jackson County. Therefore, please advise me immediately as to how the County intends to meet its obligations and remedy this situation.”

He cited a Missouri statute that says counties are obliged to “maintain … a good and sufficient courthouse.”

There’s also been another recent setback. The county was ready to award a contract for elevator work, but the county’s compliance office two weeks ago rejected the contract because it didn’t meet standards for women- and minority-owned business participation. The county is expected to go out for bids again shortly. The work itself is expected to take months.

White briefly mentioned the elevators among other issues during an appearance on Thursday, before Byrn’s letter was released to the public. White said the county has many old facilities that need attention.

“Everything that I’ve done the last five years is stuff that should have been fixed 20 years ago,” he said.