It’s about time Lake County government came out of the Dark Ages and closed satellite buildings in Gary, Hammond and East Chicago.

They aren’t needed and are a drain on taxpayers.

Four of the seven Lake County councilmen last week voted to perform a study regarding whether the county should keep the three buildings open. Interestingly, three of the councilmen said they didn’t even want to find out. More on that later.

Two of the three county commissioners still have to approve the study.

In Lake County’s early days, there was a need for the satellite offices, since virtually all of the county’s population lived in the north.

That, of course, has changed, and the majority of the population isn’t far from the county seat in Crown Point where county government is headquartered.

County officials wanting to keep the satellites open will hide behind the argument that some north county folks lack the transportation needed to get to Crown Point for government services.

While the county’s bus operations are woefully inadequate, there is service from Gary to Crown Point.

And let’s get real; it’s not very often that someone has a need to go into a county government office. Many of such transactions can be done by mail or computer.

Those wanting to keep the aging — and in some cases, crumbling — satellites open will argue that it wouldn’t be cost-effective to build a new facility in Crown Point to house what was closed.

I doubt it, but that is one thing the study will tell us.

Most of the activity at the satellite offices involves the civil courts. You also can pay your property taxes there, but most people have their banks do that for them.

There is one other significant factor that the elected officials won’t talk about. All three satellites have an office for county commissioners and/or councilmen.

The county commissioners — in particular those representing north county — have spent considerable time in the satellite offices over the years.

I don’t think it is a matter of making it easier for constituents to stop by and air their concerns. No, I’ve never seen lines of folks waiting to see a commissioner. And most people have telephones, although they use them more for fun and games than for calls.

In the past, north county commissioners have used those satellite buildings as campaign offices. It is convenient and for the most part out of the public view.

It is interesting that the three councilmen who voted against the study — Christine Cid, David Hamm and Elsie Franklin — all are from north county and may well have been acting at the behest of north county commissioners.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjamescolumns@gmail.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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