By LILY REX
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.