Elkhart Mayor Presents Plan For Consolidated County Court & Public Safety Building For Downtown
At the Elkhart County Commission meeting on Monday, Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson and his team presented their plan for a consolidated courthouse in downtown Elkhart. The proposal is part of an ongoing effort to try and keep a county court presence in the city of Elkhart.
Along with city engineer Tory Irwin, Chamber of Commerce President Levon Johnson and consulting group Structurepoint, Roberson presented a combined building that would include the county courthouse, a city public safety facility and an attached parking garage.
The presentation comes after the commission announced plans earlier this year to move the county courts out of downtown Goshen and Elkhart and into a new facility off of County Road 17 in Goshen.
Roberson said that moving all seven of the county’s courts to downtown Elkhart would best serve the people who actually use them.
“Two-thirds of the court filings come out of Elkhart, and somewhere around 60 percent, or thereabouts, of people who utilize the court system are in Elkhart,” Roberson said.
Elkhart’s First District Councilman Aaron Mishler spoke in favor of keeping the courts downtown, citing transportation to the new facility as a concern.
“There are many elderly folks who can’t drive and rely on rides or public transportation to get there, as well as low-income individuals," Mishler said. "I don’t believe they should face the possibility of missing a court date due to a ride from a friend falling through.”
He also encouraged the commission to wait for an economic impact study to be conducted so that the economic consequences of moving the courts could be quantified.
"Folks just aren't parking there, going to court and leaving," Mishler said. "During a recess, they're going to get coffee at The Electric Brew or browsing for books at The Bookworm. Having the facility there greatly benefits the businesses in our district and in our city."
The commission estimates that the project will cost about $80 million. For that reason, Commissioner Mike Yoder said that they are in no hurry to decide where to consolidate the courts.
“It’s fair to say that we want to continue to make progress on this, but this is a big project, and we want to make sure we do it right,” Yoder said. "It's not every day that we build $80 million structures."
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