LaPorte County Courthouse

The LaPorte County Courthouse in downtown LaPorte is the only courthouse in Indiana made of red sandstone. Look closely at the building, and you'll find some of its 45 gargoyles.

Doug Ross, The Times

The historic courthouse in Michigan City would double in size and the even more historic courthouse in LaPorte would be added on to if elected officials approve projects proposed this week.

Both existing structures would also be updated.

LaPorte County Auditor Joie Winski said no cost estimates have been presented but will be if the LaPorte County commissioners in October approve a request to hire a financial consultant to work up the figures.

The Michigan City courthouse would be worked on first because the needs there are more pressing, Winski said.

"If we don’t do something about Michigan City, the state is going to close us down," Winski said.

Dan Weinheimer, an architect with Indianapolis-based American StructurePoint, went over the projects recently with the LaPorte County Council.

He said the primary need at the Michigan City courthouse is updating the electrical system.

Other major needs include a better heating and cooling system and bringing all areas into compliance with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.

New construction would extend from the southeast corner of the building to provide a fifth courtroom, more space for courtroom personnel and a more secure holding area for LaPorte County Jail inmates scheduled for hearings.

County government offices at a nearby facility on Eighth Street would be moved into the addition. That building owned by the county would then be sold, Winski said.

The new construction in LaPorte would connect the courthouse and the adjacent county complex to create space for relocating all of the county offices currently across the street.

Joining the two buildings that are about 200 feet apart would also create a more secure common entranceway, officials said.

Winski said the plans will be presented to the commissioners either on Wednesday or Oct. 18.

Council attorney Shaw Friedman said borrowing to finance the work shouldn’t be a problem. LaPorte County is one of just five counties in the state with no debt, he said.

"This isn’t like a luxury thing. This is really, really important," County Council President Jeff Santana said.

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