Porter and LaPorte officials are addressing the space needs of county government. Lake County has some catching up to do.
In Michigan City, the courthouse is going to be renovated and expanded, adding room for county offices currently in leased space elsewhere in the city.
The 1909 courthouse at U.S. 12 and Washington Street will double in size as a result of the $21 million project.
Improvements to the existing structure include replacing the electrical system now deemed a fire hazard and making the inside more handicapped-accessible.
Additional work in LaPorte, connecting the historic downtown courthouse to the building that now houses the jail and various offices, is also on the drawing board, but waiting for existing debt to be paid off first. That project, too, will include consolidating offices.
In Porter County, the commissioners and County Council have committed to renovating the courthouse in downtown Valparaiso. The first contracts for exterior work were awarded Tuesday.
The old jail also is being purchased by the county to house a variety of offices, including the E911 call center now housed at the current jail. Work is being done at the Porter County Administration Center, too. The entrance now is easier to navigate with trip hazards in front of the building eliminated.
In Portage, Porter County officials are renovating the north county government complex and building a strip mall-type structure to share with Portage Township. That means customers won’t have to go through court security to access county services unrelated to criminal justice.
In Lake County, though, it’s status quo. There are satellite courthouses in Gary, Hammond and East Chicago as well as the series of buildings in Crown Point, the county seat.
It’s time for Lake County officials to take a detailed look at space needs to see how to more efficiently serve the county’s residents.
We expect the results of a serious study would show the county no longer needs all three satellite courthouses. It also would show what work needs to be done to improve other facilities and to consolidate operations in Crown Point.
Jeff Good, president of the Porter County Board of Commissioners, is fond of making clear that the work on the county’s buildings is intended to fulfill the commissioners’ two aims — to improve customer service and efficiency, and to save money if possible.
We need that kind of leadership in Lake County, too.