Plans for $55 million justice center in Lincoln County revealed

Facility meant to address rapid growth in population, criminal justice needs

By: - May 2, 2023 4:11 pm
The Lincoln County Courthouse in Canton, as seen on Oct. 28, 2022. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

The Lincoln County Courthouse in Canton, as seen on Oct. 28, 2022. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Lincoln County commissioners in Canton got their first look Tuesday at plans for a $55 million courthouse and justice center meant to meet the county’s needs for decades.

Commissioners approved the spending in December in the interest of dealing with the swelling criminal justice needs of the state’s fastest-growing county, which includes the expanding southern edge of Sioux Falls.

Robin Houwman, who serves as the presiding judge for both Lincoln and Minnehaha counties, recently said that steady population growth has led to a surge in case filings that will require the addition of a new judge for the circuit.

For Lincoln County, the growth in its criminal justice obligations has framed debate on two controversial building proposals in recent years. In 2020, voters rejected a push for a new jail, which left the county to continue contracting with the Minnehaha County Jail in Sioux Falls. 


A 4-1 vote from commissioners to move forward with the new courthouse came in December. The group approved $55 million in bonding authority — which would raise property taxes around $16 a month for the average homeowner — but the group did not choose a final site. At that point, some favored tearing down the current courthouse and rebuilding, while others argued for a new building on a “greenfield” space just north of town.

Commissioner Mike Poppens said he now believes the greenfield site, purchased for about $1.6 million, has the support of at least four commissioners. The bonding authority resolution that passed in December requires a 4-1 vote on site selection before the project can commence.

The commission was mostly ready to choose the greenfield option before Tuesday’s meeting, Poppens said, but “we needed to see some of this information to know that it would legitimately work.”

“The writing’s on the wall,” he said.

A map of the location of a proposed Lincoln County Courthouse near Canton, SD. (courtesy Lincoln County)
A map of the location of a proposed Lincoln County Courthouse near Canton. (Courtesy of Lincoln County)

The floor plan presentation came from contractors with JLG Architects, Tegra, DLR Group and Henry Carlson Construction. It showed a three-story facility at the greenfield site, which is at the corner of Highway 18 and 480th Avenue just north of town. The new justice center could include up to eight courtrooms, including room for two expansion courtrooms on the third floor.

The layout includes a sally port for the transfer of inmates to a holding area, space for 15 offices for lawyers with the Lincoln County State’s Attorney’s Office and several multi-purpose meeting rooms for case negotiations, meetings with clients or other uses.

Todd Orr of DLR Group told commissioners that the floor plans would likely see adjustments based on commissioner and public comments.

“This is kind of our first pass,” Orr said.

The plan also preserves space to add a jail, should the county choose to build one.

Poppens was among the commissioners to thank the contractors for considering the future.

“This county is going to continue to grow, and the commissions that are sitting here in the years to come will talk about expanding it,” he said.

In addition to a vote finalizing the location, there will be public comment periods over the summer and a final vote on the site plan and project specs from commissioners next fall. Bids would follow, and construction could begin next year.


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John Hult
John Hult

John is the senior reporter for South Dakota Searchlight. He has more than 15 years experience covering criminal justice, the environment and public affairs in South Dakota, including more than a decade at the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.