Stay and renovate or move? County officials discuss future of county-city building

NOW: Stay and renovate or move? County officials discuss future of county-city building

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Is it time to say goodbye to the county-city building in downtown South Bend?

"County government should be out of that building," says Saint Joseph County Commissioner Derek Dieter.

Commissioner Dieter says it's time to move. 

Following heating issues over the winter and a water main break in a county courthouse shutting down the county-city building Tuesday, Dieter believes the nearly 60-year-old building is causing too many issues for staff. 

"There are daily things that go on of things breaking," Dieter explains. "We had to shut down in the winter and we can't guarantee now that the air conditioner will be working in the summer." 

County councilmember Rafael Morton says those issues are starting to come at a cost. 

"It definitely affects total efficiency and total operations," says Saint Joseph County Councilman Rafael Morton.

That's why they're looking for a new home. 

Dieter says the county has already engaged consultants to look for a new facility, potentially rehoming county departments in a three-to-four story building, which is 10 stories less than the current building. 

He believes the county's most visited services: the health department, the assessor, and the treasurer's offices should be on the first floor for easier access and less reliance on elevators that are sometimes not operating. 

"People come down there to pay a bill, or come to a meeting, or take their children to the health department for shots, they should be able to come in, get out, with no drama or no hassle," Dieter says. 

County leaders say one of the biggest problems with the current space and the one that causes the most headaches is where to park, when all that's available is street parking.

"There's no place to park," says Dieter. 

It's a headache for visitors and staff who may have to park blocks away. 

Dieter also isn't happy with the size of some offices. 

However, the county-city building is also connected to the courthouses downtown as a campus with shared utility infrastructure, which plays another big factor in the decision.

"There are so many factors involved before we make a move or do not make a move and try to refurbish and address all the problems in this building," Morton says.

This is still not set in stone, though there is a public meeting on this on March 19th at 6pm on the fourth floor of the county-city building. 

Renovating is still on the table, and Councilmember Morton says it's all still very early in the process.

The county is conducting a survey now for feedback and people's experiences when they visit.

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