Justice center project progresses

Commissioners have begun putting a plan in place for a permanent home for a court that opened in temporary quarters more than eight years ago.

The decision to hire an Indianapolis company to oversee the construction of a justice center in the block just east of the courthouse square in Brownstown didn’t come without some controversy.

“I can’t vote for it right now; there’s just not enough information,” Commissioner Tom Joray said of a plan to hire Garmong Construction Services to oversee the project, which has a price tag of between $8 and $12 million.

Speaking during a recent commissioners meeting, Joray said he has been approached about another project at the jail that needs to be examined, but he was not yet ready to announce it.

Commissioners president Matt Reedy said he was not aware of any project and voted to hire Garmong to manage the justice center project from beginning to end at a cost of $35,000.

Commissioner Jerry Hounshel also voted to proceed with hiring Garmong, represented by Dan Zuerner.

“We’ve been talking about it for seven and a half years, and we decided to buy up this block,” Hounshel said during the meeting at the courthouse annex.

The annex was built in 1953 and served as the county jail until 2000. It was later converted into a courthouse, and Jackson Superior Court II opened in the meeting room in that building on Jan. 1, 2008.

Commissioners and other county officials have met in the past and put together a plan to build a justice center with a basement in the 200 block of East Walnut Street. The county owns all but two parcels in that block, which is surrounded by Walnut, Sugar, Cross and Water streets.

“It was decided to put this court here,” Hounshel said. “So it’s time to build this court.”

The project originally had a price tag of $11 to $12 million, but Zuerner said there is substantial money savings possible through consolidation of offices and coming up with other value added engineering.

He said the project could likely now be completed for $8.5 to $9.5 million.

Bonds the county sold to complete construction of the jail and juvenile center are about to be paid off, and the tax rate will go down unless the county decides to proceed with the justice center project.

“We have to let this thing by November in order to have everything ready to go and remain tax-neutral,” Reedy said of the contract with Garmong and securing bonds for the project.

Garmong will manage the project, put together a schedule and conduct all project meetings, Zuerner said.

The company also will install a camera to monitor construction, allowing commissioners to follow the project 24/7, and will work to eliminate or reduce change orders by making restrictive specifications, he said.

Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.