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Elkhart County Council Votes To Move Forward With $80M Court Consolidation

Screenshot via Cisco Webex

After contentious lengthy debate Saturday morning, the Elkhart County Council voted to move forward with consolidating the county's courts at a single location and that would remove the presence of the courts from the downtown areas in Elkhart and Goshen. Several of the council members abstained from voting altogether. 

Prior to the vote, Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson implored the council to postpone the vote for 90 days to give the city more time to study the options and the impact of such action. He worries about the economic effect it will have on Elkhart's downtown. Goshen's mayor expressed similar concerns about his downtown. Roberson has also pointed out previously that the about two-thirds of the court filings come out of Elkhart and about 60% of people who utilize the court system are in Elkhart.

After the vote, Mayor Roberson issued a statement saying, “Many things could have been done differently throughout this process that would have given Downtown Elkhart a fair shot. While I am disappointed in the county’s decision to move ahead without us, I am humbled by the outpouring of support for the city of Elkhart. The team we assembled to fight for a downtown location will remain engaged and impassioned about the future of our downtown. The removal of the courthouse from Downtown Elkhart means the southwest corridor of downtown will be dramatically transformed in the coming years and I look forward to leading that effort.”

Elkhart Co. Commissioner Mike Yoder says the consolidation will occur on property near the intersection of County Rd. 17 and U.S. 33. 

A member of the public pointed out to the council that he didn't feel that the needs of Black and Brown people and access to transportation had been taken into consideration with the consolidation plan.

During public comment, one individual said that this vote would be more consequential through the years in the county than action that revolves around COVID-19. 

Following the vote and the meeting, a citizen called out the council members who he said were not wearing face masks or appropriately socially distanced. One council member explained he was not wearing a mask becasuse it would fog up his glasses.