Daviess County Commissioners and County Council Joint Meeting Breakdown – Road Improvements, Courthouse Renovations, Magistrate Court

The Daviess County Commissioners got through their regular business in short order at Tuesday’s meeting. The commissioners agreed to submit an application for a Community Crossings grant. The funds would help the county complete improvements to County Road 900 east to the Green County line and County Road 1200 north to U.S. 231. The Board also agreed to appoint County Auditor Jennifer Welsh as their representative to the Indiana Uplands Land Bank. In other business, the Commissioners agreed to purchase three AED machines, one for the Community Corrections Office and two to be placed on county highway trucks. The Commissioners also approved the appointments of Luis Santiago to the Corrections Advisory Board and Rhonda Clark to the County Tax Appeal Board and renewed a contract with Kim Murray to serve as the new construction field representative for the auditor’s office.
Following the Commissioner’s regular meeting, the Commissioners were joined by the County Council in a special joint meeting to discuss the courthouse renovation project. Representatives from RQAW gave an overview of the latest proposal, which has a $13.1 million price tag. The plan includes an upgraded security entrance area on the basement floor, with the main entrance to the courthouse on the east side. The prosecutor’s office would also remain on the ground floor. The second floor would house the Probation Department, which would see a 45% boost in office space and include separate waiting areas for juveniles and adults. Also on the second floor would be the Superior Court and the Magistrates Court. The Superior Court would see a 67% boost in space for the courtroom and judicial staff offices. The Magistrate Court is a third court being established for Daviess County by the state of Indiana due to the case loads of the county’s other two courts. The third floor would house the clerk’s office and the Circuit Court. The Circuit Court would see a 54% boost in space, while the Clerk’s Office would pick up an additional room for storage and elections. There would also be additional restrooms on each floor of the building.
Prosecutor Dan Muree, County Clerk Lauren Milton, and Probation Director Beth O’Brien all approved the proposed plans. However, both Circuit Court Judge Greg Smith and Superior Court Judge Dean Sobecki said the space allotment for the Magistrates Court was “inadequate.” The two judges said that there needed to be more public seating in the magistrate court, and both asked for a redesign of their proposed office areas. The two judges said that the additional public seating would be necessary on hearing days. The current proposal has 10 seats in the gallery of the Magistrates Court. The two judges said 20 to 30 seats were needed.
After hearing from the judges and department heads, the council and commissioners discussed the project. All ten agreed that it was critical to preserve the building’s historic exterior and that the project should be limited to the existing structure. The county officials did note that the building would need at least $4 million in general upkeep if nothing else was done. After the meeting, WAMW asked the County Commissioner’s president, Nathan Gabhart, where the county was at on the project. This is what Gabhart had to say.

The courthouse renovation will be on the agenda for the next Commissioners meeting on February 28.