Picking up steam: Project to combine courts into one building makes progress

The pieces of a $12.141 million project to put Jackson County’s three courts in a proposed justice center in Brownstown have begun falling into place.

Bids for that project, which involves the construction of a new building to be known as the Jackson County Justice Center at 109 S. Sugar St., are scheduled to be let in April with a completion date of no later than November 2018.

After a recent commissioners meeting, President Matt Reedy said RQAW Consulting Engineers and Architects has completed about 25 percent of the design work. The Indianapolis firm is being paid $546,000 to design and build the center, which will house the county’s three courts.

One of the main purposes of consolidating the courts in one location is to provide better security and improve access to the public. Jackson Circuit Court presently is located in the courthouse a block away; Jackson Superior Court I is located on the west side of Seymour; and Jackson Superior Court II is located in the courthouse annex near the proposed site of the justice center.

The new center will be located in the block bounded on the north by Walnut Street, the south by Cross Street, Walnut Street on the west and Sugar Street on the south.

The project will be financed with bonds to be repaid with property tax revenues. To keep the project tax neutral, the county council plans to use property tax revenues currently being used to pay for construction of the jail and juvenile center in 2000 for the construction of the justice center. The bonds to construct the jail and juvenile center are about to be paid off.

The justice center will be built along the east side of Sugar Street, and the center of it would be located across an alley that runs from that street to the parking lot for the courthouse annex. It would face the backside of the courthouse.

County Surveyor Dan Blann told commissioners during the meeting that before the projects proceeds much further, they will need to have the Brownstown Town Council vacate two alleys.

One of those alleys runs east from Sugar Street to the middle of the block, where it meets the second alley that runs south from Walnut Street. The first alley presently serves as a driveway to the annex from Sugar Street, while the second alley lies between the annex and the county planning and zoning office on Walnut Street.

County attorney Susan Bevers told commissioners they would need to present a petition to the Brownstown council to see about having those alleys vacated.

In a related matter, Eric Woodmansee with RQAW attended the Brownstown council meeting Jan. 3 and received tentative approval for a plan changing parallel parking along Sugar Street between Walnut and Cross streets to angle parking.

That plan also calls for the road to be widened six feet to the east toward the proposed justice center and angle parking to be added on the south side of Walnut Street from Sugar Street to the annex.

The council will have to amend the ordinance regulating streets because of those proposed changes, town Clerk-Treasurer David Willey said Wednesday morning.

Commissioners also told Bevers to proceed with plans to obtain two properties owned by Max Middendorf at Water and Cross streets. The county needs at least the back portion of that lot for the project, and Reedy said it would be better if the whole lot could be purchased.

Bevers also was asked by commissioners to try to contact the owners of property at Cross and Sugar streets in the same block about the possibility of selling. The county already owns the rest of the property in that block.

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