Chesterton Tribune



Commissioners buy back old renovated jail for office space

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The Porter County Board of Commissioners voted to offer to buy the old jail building for $3,621,500 at its meeting Tuesday morning.

The move to buy the jail, at 157 Franklin St. in Valparaiso, down the street from the Courthouse and the Administration Center, comes after the current owners made significant renovations, according to Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center. The renovations included adding heating and air conditioning throughout, adding up-to-code elevators, installing windows, clearing cells, replacing the roof, installing fire sprinklers, and remodeling 4,000 square feet of the space into a restaurant.

Good said the offered price is the average of two appraisals on the building, and the County will share closing costs with the seller. The current owners also receive rental income from a cell phone tower on the roof and purchased additional parking, both of which will be included in the sale.

County Attorney McClure gave the history of the building. McClure said the current owners bought it from the Commissioners in a 2002 auction. They paid $320,000 for the building as is, just weeks after the inmates had been moved to the new jail on Ind. 49. Good noted that the old jail was never given or sold to the city of Valparaiso, as some people may have thought.

The building was sold because the new jail was completed, and the County faced too much financial strain from Bethlehem Steel’s bankruptcy to renovate the old jail, which needed a lot of upgrades. Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, noted that resources were also scarce because the sale took place before Porter County implemented an income tax and before the hospital was sold. McClure said the building can now bring in money to offset its costs since the restaurant space can be rented and the cell phone tower already produces income.

Good said he knows some people may think this is a move to grow government, but that isn’t the case. “We’re not growing anything. We’re moving people around that are already here,” he said. He projected that 75 to 100 employees from the Courthouse and some other offices will move to the old jail after it’s refurbished. He also said the move “allows us to move on our capital plan much quicker and more efficiently.”

Biggs said the County was lucky to have the building available again. “It’s 40,000 square feet. It’s built like a tank. It’s going be a great home for our E911 program,” he said. He added that it’s been 30 years since major improvements have been done on County facilities. “We have to have space that is appropriate for us to deliver our services. That’s what we’re doing here. It’s not because we like new buildings.”

Other Approvals

--Sheriff Dave Reynolds received approval to lease a new motorcycle for the Sheriff’s Department from Harley Davidson of Valparaiso to the tune of $2,000 per year.

--County Surveyor Kevin Breitzke received approval to buy a new work vehicle from Bosak Chevrolet for $31,100.

--IT Director Don Wellsand received approval for a NITCO service agreement that will bring the County garages in Hebron and Chesterton up-to-date.

--The Commissioners approved two change orders for work done by American Structurepoint on the Administration Center plaza. The change orders were for $15,646 and $1,206, bringing to cost of the contract up to $962,670.



Posted 4/4/2018




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