Porter County is talking about building a new courthouse in downtown Portage to replace the existing one on Willowcreek Road. But is this a smart move for the county?
It's easy to see the benefits for Portage. Moving the operations to the city's downtown, in a new building, would bring more foot traffic to its downtown. That would help nearby restaurants and other retail businesses.
North Shore Health Centers is said to be interested in the county's existing building, which would solve the problem of how to dispose of it.
But what's the selling point for the county?
Porter Superior Court Judge Julia Jent said the plan would provide more room for the two courts based in Portage.
"We are bursting at the seams, and are not going to be getting any smaller," she said.
The existing building has been criticized for putting prisoners awaiting court hearings and children awaiting immunization in close proximity. But the health department has been moved into leased space nearby.
The county is sitting on a big pile of money and could easily afford to build a new courthouse.
But what would the operating costs at the new building be compared to the existing one?
Porter County has proved it's good at erecting buildings, but not at providing for operating costs. The Porter County Jail is a good example, with plenty of room to ease crowding but not the money to pay the additional jailers and other operating costs.
The county has yet to bring its health insurance costs under control despite knowing for several years that it has to happen. It's another example of not controlling operating costs.
So with this proposal to build a new courthouse in Portage, how would the operating costs at the new facility compare to costs at the old one? Could costs be reduced?
Look at operating costs, not just construction costs.
It doesn't make sense to build another building and struggle with how to pay for operations there.