The construction of a $12.3 million, 38,000-square-foot judicial center under way on Sugar Street may help with county’s long-term space needs but it’s created short-term issue for a couple of county offices.
As part of the project, the buildings presently housing the planning and zoning and the public defender offices have to come down. That has county commissioners scrambling to come up with space for more than half a dozen people before the end of the summer.
Commissioner Bob Gillaspy sought and received tentative approval Wednesday night from the county council to spend as much as $75,000 in Rainy Day Funds to find that space.
Gillaspy said commissioners are exploring several options in Brownstown including the purchase of The Banner building at 116 E. Cross St. and the rental of office space at a former church at 220 S. Main St.
He said the owners of The Banner building, Aim Media Indiana, are asking for $65,000 for it. Aim Media also owns The Tribune.
To purchase the building, the county would have to have two appraisals and could only pay the average of the two. There already is one appraisal available for the building, $64,100, Gillaspy said. That appraisal stems from Aim Media’s purchase of the building from Timmus Co. for $35,000 earlier this year. The building’s assessed value is $65,000.
Gillaspy said some of the staff of the public defender’s office are not in favor of moving into The Banner because of a lack of private office space — needed for consultations with clients — and the age and condition of the building.
A second issue concerning the purchase of that building is that its just part of a larger building. The person who owns the other part is not interested in selling for at least a year, county human resources manager Jeff Hubbard said.
Hubbard said the county had initially been told the public defenders office, which opened in January of 2016 in a former doctor’s office at 213 E. Cross St., would be one of the last things to go during construction of the center to house the county’s three courts. Space for a potential fourth court also will be built.
It is now slated to be torn down later this summer, Gillaspy said. The building housing the County Plan Commission also will be torn down.
He said the county’s long-term interest in The Banner building would be for parking, but that couldn’t happen if the owner of the other part decides against selling.
In the short term, the privacy issues and the condition of The Banner Building could be corrected with some money, Gillaspy said.
Remodeling the building could make it marketable to sale, lease or rent as office space in the future once the county’s present needs for office space are met and if the owner of the second part of the building decides not to sell, he said.
Gillaspy said the former Nazarene Church, which once housed the county’s office of the Indiana Division of Family and Children, already is set up with individuals but also needs remodeling that would take longer than remodeling The Banner building.
The owner of that building also initially asked for $5,000 a month or enough that in 12 months the county could purchased The Banner building, Gillaspy said. Hubbard said he is continuing to work with the owner to see if a better rate could be negotiated.
Hubbard said the $75,000 could come from the Rainy Day Fund especially since two others properties the county had hoped to purchase for parking as part of the project are not going to be available any time soon.
The county council recently sold $12.315 in bonds to pay for the judicial center. The bonds will be repaid with local income tax and economic development revenues.