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VALPARAISO — After weeks of work already underway, Porter County officials formally recognized the renovations happening at the old jail building, one of the last major projects of the year.

There was an improvised groundbreaking ceremony at the 157 Franklin St. facility Tuesday morning, where officials took turns shoveling some dirt in the rear parking lot despite the fact most of the work being done is on the interior and on the roof.

The building was purchased by the county in 2018 and is set to become home to a number of county offices. The majority of new occupants will be court-related departments, such as the county prosecutor and adult probation. The top floor will become a state-of-the-art 911 dispatch center. The child support division has already moved in on the ground floor.

“It's always a pleasure to be able to deliver to our constituency, our taxpayers and families in this county some of the things you would expect,” said County Council President Dan Whitten. “This is another wonderful example."

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Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, said there will also be a team from the sheriff's office inside the building to provide security.

“We have a lot of different walks of life coming through this building,” he said. “We just want to make sure everyone in this building is secure. If you see the work that's been going on at the courthouse, there's been a real emphasis on protecting our judges and our people that work in these buildings every day.”

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Currently, the roof is being replaced on the building. After some preliminary steps like airing out the space, the rest of the interior work will start. All together, contracts for the project will cost the county $4.5 million. The county's goal is to finish up the work next March and then start moving the departments into their new offices.

“We're going to try and make sure we move sometime with warmer weather,” Good said. “We don't want anyone to make a mid-winter move.”

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