The Save the Pulaski County Courthouse group is ready to get to work to find ways to meet the county government’s current needs without tearing down the historic building. That’s what group member Michael Beach told the county commissioners Monday. “We’re going to try to get a little bit more organized, have a little more meetings, and be a little more proactive,” he said, “but it’s not about just saying, ‘Don’t do it,’ and then we walk away. I think we can help.” Beach asked county officials to take time to do a fuller analysis before making any decisions.
County Attorney Kevin Tankersley pointed out that a plan was developed three years ago to preserve and expand the courthouse, but it didn’t get much support. “Not a single voice was heard in favor of that project,” he said. “In fact, it was adamantly opposed to that project. That would have made this quite an unbelievable building.”
Tankersley stressed that doing nothing is no longer an option. In addition to structural issues, he noted that the county’s court facilities still lack a secure single point of entry. “That’s an order from the Indiana Supreme Court,” Tankersley explained. “You could look it up online. It’s actually now, gosh, 10 years old, at least, that they mandated this security. And we have two buildings. It would be exponentially expensive for us to implement the security you see in these other courthouses around. So we’ve been kind of ducking that and saying, ‘We’re too poor. We can’t do it.’ But we need to address it if we’re going to do some sort of renovation.”
Beyond the safety and security concerns, Commissioner Mike McClure didn’t think the courthouse is very user-friendly, as it currently is.
Commissioner Jerry Locke challenged the Save the Courthouse group to come up with solutions. “I’d like to see your group come up with a plan – security, ADA, how to save money,” he said, “and submit it to us and let us review it.” Tankersley said the commissioners would be willing to supply the group with any necessary information, and Maintenance Director Jeff Johnston said he planned to take Beach on a tour of the facility today.
Johnston said he and Commissioner Locke also met with representatives from Indiana Landmarks. “They have offered to get with the architect that we are dealing with, with the current proposal that you guys have looked at, and have him draw up alternative plans for a separate possible use for the courthouse,” Johnston said, “whether it’s how we can use the space differently for the offices, how we can accomplish some of the things you guys are looking to accomplish.”
Todd Zeiger, the director of Landmarks Indiana’s Northern Regional Office, told the commissioners that the organization would also help identify grant opportunities, but warned that there are no “giant pots of grant money” available.