LAPORTE — A two-year lease has been sign for relocating the Michigan City courthouse operations while the 1909 structure is being renovated and expanded.
The entire staff will be moved to the former Brown Mackie College site on U.S. 20 at Woodland Avenue under the lease approved recently by the LaPorte County Council.
LaPorte County Auditor Joie Winski estimated the cost of renovating the structure in Michigan City for use as a temporary courthouse at $468,000.
Winski said the first year’s rent is just under $200,000 with rent going up just slightly if the building is needed for another 12 months.
She estimated the cost of water and other utilities along with insurance at $126,000 annually.
LaPorte County Attorney Shaw Friedman said the cost of the temporary courthouse will be paid from a $1.3 million reduction in the down payment on the $20 million financing of the project.
Friedman said the down payment was lowered because of the A+ credit rating given to county government from S & P Global Ratings, a firm connected to Wall Street.
“In essence, this isn’t really going to cost us anything,” Winski said.
Originally, the courthouse was going to function during the upgrade.
The decision to relocate was made to avoid risk of exposure to COVID-19 from construction workers going to and from the site.
Winski said she will seek reimbursement for the costs associated with the move from federal COVID-19 relief funds.
Friedman said the cost of construction was also reduced by $350,000 because of the six to eight months of time saved from not having to work with people inside the structure.
“It’s really a win-win for taxpayers,” he said.
Winski said the financing is for 20 years with a goal of paying off the debt in 10 years.
She said there will be no increase in property taxes because the project is being paid entirely from the $5 million collected annually in local income taxes.
Friedman said work has already begun on getting the temporary courthouse ready for use sometime next month.