MC courthouse project gets OK

May 11, 2019

La PORTE – The La Porte County Council – on a 4-2 vote Wednesday – approved a $22.49 million expansion and renovation of the Michigan City Courthouse.

Plans for the project include a major expansion and complete renovation of the structure.

At a special meeting called to vote on the project, Councilmen Michael Rosenbaum and Jeff Santana opposed the project.

Rosenbaum explained his reasoning for opposing the project.

“I’m concerned about the restriction of selling the property. I’m not sure if that is in the best interest of the county,” Rosenbaum said, referring to the county offices on Eighth Street in Michigan City.

“I’m new, I haven’t reviewed every piece of property. I have this feeling where giving up property is one of the [last] things that I want to do,” he said. “I would rather find a use for it, if there is one.”

Part of the plan for the courthouse expansion is to move many of the 8th Street county offices into the expanded courthouse.

“Almost all of the offices that are in there are going to have a home in the new courthouse,” Councilman Randy Novak said. “We’re expanding to incorporate them.”

The move would take place after the courthouse construction project was completed.

These offices are currently in relative disrepair, but the county is planning to put the 8th Street building up for sale after the migration to the courthouse.

“It wouldn’t be for another two years, when the project is done, that we would be moving those people,” Novak said. “Nothing is going to happen real fast. It’s not going to go up for sale anytime soon.”

Other aspects of financing for the expansion were revealed during the meeting.

“We transferred some riverboat money to transfer money,” Novak said. “We usually replenish our ‘rainy day’ fund – our emergency reserve fund – with 50 percent of our intake from riverboat money.

“We hadn’t done that for a while, so we needed to put some more [money] in there. Eight million dollars is going to be applied to the project so that we don’t have to finance as much. It’s like putting a down payment on a house.”