County commissioners weigh options for the future of the county-city building

NOW: County commissioners weigh options for the future of the county-city building

SAINT JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. -- Saint Joseph County Commissioners are now facing the numbers as they seek a new home for their government services.

Commissioners have made it clear it's time to reconsider the downtown county-city building as the city has plans to move out and the current building continues to cause maintenance and infrastructure headaches.

"We need to get county government out of here," says Saint Joseph County Commissioner Derek Dieter.

Commissioner Dieter remains steadfast with which options he favors the most: building a brand-new county government center from the ground up or finding a building to move into.

He says one building they had their eyes on, the Crowe building downtown, was bought up too quickly and is no longer an option.

"We are not a private business where we could have met, write the check, and we get going," explains Dieter. "You can't do that in government, unfortunately."

As they are still looking for another potential building to purchase, the options currently on the table involve building a new government center or renovating the county-city building.

DLZ conducted a facility condition assessment on the current government hub, and they say that almost all of the critical infrastructure in the building is well past its life expectancy.

That leaves the county with many different options as far as critical renovations with varying price points.

Entirely renovating the building would cost an estimated $85-90 million, and building an entirely new county building could cost up to $175 million.

Consultants offered a number of options in between as well, like renovating floor-by-floor.

"These need to be addressed, and in Derek's opinion, we need to go to a new building," Dieter says.

As the city government vacates the top three floors of the building next year, the county says even if they also vacate the building, they would still need to maintain it.

The fifth floor provides the electrical power to the courthouses and offices like the Prosecutor's office need to remain near the courts.

"Then the next thing we would look at, would we lease that to somebody? It's always going to be a fluid subject matter," says Dieter.

Of course, parking is the number one issue for most employees.

There is an option to construct a parking deck at the current building, but it's unclear where that exactly would fit.

Commissioner Dieter says the next steps now are to continue to review the studies and meet with the County Council to see what option makes the most sense financially and for the betterment of county government departments.

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