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Brown County Residents Mull Three Options For Courthouse

Residents of Brown County gathered for a third 'Community Conversation' to discuss renovating the existing courthouse or building a new one.

Courthouse

Photo: Jimmy Emerson, DVM (Flickr)

The Brown County Courthouse was built in 1873 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Brown County residents are being asked to consider three options for the future of the county’s courthouse.

Dozens of concerned residents packed into the basement meeting room of the Brown County Public Library for a third “Community Conversation” on Thursday night to discuss the future of the county’s courthouse.

The centerpiece of the discussion was an objective analysis of the three options for the courthouse by Dr. James Glass, a historic preservation and heritage consultant.

The three options include retaining the current courthouse as it is but making emergency modifications for issues such as security and privacy concerns and handicapped accessibility, rehabilitating the current courthouse and building a new addition to address space concerns, or building a new courthouse at the Law Enforcement Center property on State Road 46.

Each option has its own pros and cons, which Glass pointed out in his report. However the residents decide to proceed, Glass expressed one hope.

“Regardless of whichever option is chosen, that there be provision for preserving the courthouse in a way that sustains it financially long term, and preserves as much of its historic character inside as well as out as possible,” Glass said.

After Glass’ presentation, people spoke in groups about the three options and tried to come to a consensus.

Speakers for each group then shared their ideas, and while most agreed that preserving the existing courthouse was important, some residents, like Gene Elias, weren’t sure what the best course of action would be.

“Everyone agrees that the courthouse is an important thing to the community as a physical entity,” Elias said.  “How do we address the needs of our justice system within that, and are there limitations, and how do we deal with that? That’s a major issue because there’s only a finite amount of space for this courthouse.”

 Julie Winn, President of the League of Women Voters of Brown County, who co-sponsored the event with the Brown County Community Foundation, said that they are nearing the end of a remonstrance period imposed by the citizens of Brown County that suspended the original courthouse addition project proposed by the county’s board of commissioners last fall.

Winn says the next step is a survey.

“We’re basically using a somewhat informal survey to take the temperature of the community and kind of see if we can get some sense of what option people would prefer at this point,” Winn said.

Winn said the surveys can be turned in to various places around the county, and must be turned in no later than September 3.

Will Healey

Will Healey is a reporter for WFIU/WTIU News. He has studied Creative Writing and Philosophy at Fordham University in New York and Journalism at Indiana University's School of Journalism. He is excited to be part of the team and report on issues that impact the lives of Hoosiers.

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