Monday, April 21, 2014

AP Reports Brown County Seeking Tax Hike for Courthouse Renovation

By the Associated Press in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette:

Brown County officials struggling to solve space and accessibility issues at the county’s outdated 130-year-old courthouse are taking another run at residents in hopes they’ll support a tax increase for an expansion.

Residents in September overwhelmingly rejected a proposed $6.5 million bond project to upgrade the building in the popular tourist destination.

Though no accessibility complaints have been filed, county officials say that at a minimum, they need to bring the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

That means making the restrooms wheelchair-accessible and building ramps in the Circuit Court courtroom, where stairs lead to the judge’s office, The Herald-Times reported.

Other options include expanding the existing courthouse in the center of Nashville or building a facility adjacent to the law enforcement center east of town.

Brown County Commissioner John Kennard said remodeling and expanding the existing courthouse is the most logical answer.

“It’s old and fits the motif of the town,” Kennard said.

Making the historic brick building accessible to those who use wheelchairs will cost about $70,000.

The full expansion would cost about $6.5 million, which would increase property taxes on a home assessed at $100,000 by about $22 a year.

“I think we have to at least make the building accessible. ... We are out of money, but we have to look at that and start somehow, and there’s no reason to do this twice if we go with the expansion,” Kennard said.

Kennard said meetings are planned with residents, and he’s hopeful they’ll come around.

“I would think more and more people are going to start siding with the need to expand and remodel the existing courthouse,” he said.