By CN Staff
The green light has been given to restore the historic Michigan City courthouse in LaPorte County, Indiana.
The $22-million project will include a complete renovation of the 110-year-old structure with an expansion that will double the size of the courthouse and provide space for county offices that are located a few blocks away in a strip mall.
Approval of the project passed on May 8 in a 4-2 vote, with $8 million to be paid upfront out of the county’s emergency fund, supplied annually with county income tax dollars. Known as the County Adjusted Gross Income Tax, revenue from CAGIT will also be used to fund the remaining $14 million.
“Almost all of the offices that are in there are going to have a home in the new courthouse,” says Councilman Randy Novak, who added that the fund could be replenished to retire what is left of the balance in eight years from a pay-back option.
He says a lease was chosen as it allows an existing revenue stream to finance this project without a property tax increase.
“We’re able to pay as we go.”
Prompting the renovations are several factors: cramped working conditions, and the courthouse’s outdated electrical system that could become a serious fire hazard.
While many are happy that the 1909 courthouse, located along U.S. 12 at Washington Street will be overhauled, councilmen Michael Rosenbaum and Jeff Santana voiced their opposition to the move at a special meeting called to vote on the project,
“I’m concerned about the restriction of selling the property,” says Rosenbaum, “I’m not sure if that is in the best interest of the county,” referring to the county offices on Eighth Street in Michigan City.
“I’m new and I haven’t reviewed every piece of property. I have this feeling where giving up property is one of the [last] things that I want to do,” he said. “I would rather find a use for it, if there is one.”
The offices on Eighth Street are in disrepair. The county is planning to put the Eighth Street building up for sale after the migration to the courthouse.
However, Novak says nothing is going to happen too soon. Work on the courthouse is expected to begin soon and could take 18 months to complete.
Approximately $2 million was trimmed from the cost of the project so that a basic design that bears a closer resemblance to the brick exterior of the courthouse could be chosen.