The Pulaski County Commissioners have chosen a path forward for a potential courthouse renovation project, but it could mean the closure of one of the county’s other buildings. Architectural firm Rowland Design had presented three courthouse renovation options, ranging from just under $4.9 million up to almost $8.6 million.
During a joint meeting with the county council Monday, Commissioner Jerry Locke suggested the middle option. It involves restoring the courthouse and installing a security checkpoint, but moving Circuit Court to an expanded Justice Center. However, the Clerk’s Office would remain in the courthouse.
Locke noted that the cheapest option of simply renovating the courthouse without moving Circuit Court wouldn’t solve the security issue of transporting jail inmates across the street for court hearings. He didn’t think demolishing the courthouse was a viable option, either.
But Council Member Rudy DeSabatine stressed that if the county were to spend that much money, he’d like to consolidate some of the facilities. “If we’re going to spend $5 million plus, are we going to try to adapt this thing to the point that we no longer have to use that county building over along the river?” he asked.
Community Development Commission Executive Director Nathan Origer said that, based on his preliminary estimates, there should be enough room to move most of the offices out of the Annex Building, but he agreed to look into it further. “The biggest obstacle, I think, would be the computer learning lab that Extension has, but my understanding is that they have had some conversations with the library and, going forward, after the library’s done some of its renovations, they could make use of the space over there for their classes,” Origer explained.
If the county does end up moving out of the Annex Building, Todd Zeiger with Indiana Landmarks offered to help officials find a buyer. “I think there’s a number of uses for that building that could be explored,” he said. “We’d be glad to help you put that out there to look for proposals. But I think we’re all thinking the same thing, that there’s a potential different use for that building, some potential savings for the county.”
When it comes to the courthouse, DeSabatine once again brought up the idea of turning some of the courthouse lawn into additional parking space, similar to what’s been done at the Fulton County Courthouse. Circuit Court Judge Mary Welker also asked county officials to keep in mind the need for secure storage space, if they go about rearranging the offices.