The Starke County Council and Commissioners are almost ready to proceed with renovations to the courthouse and old jail building across the street. They’ve got money left from the construction of the new jail east of Knox to make upgrades to both buildings for continued correctional use.
The old jail will become office space for Starke County Community Corrections and the probation department. Community Corrections Director Bob Hinojosa told the county council and commissioners Monday his board has committed $100,000 toward the renovations on the condition that the former sally port can be turned into a conference room.
That space was being eyed as a spot for the coroner, as the county does not have a permanent area for body storage and viewing. Now the county is looking into the feasibility of enclosing the outdoor recreation area and adding utilities to turn it into a morgue. They’ve asked the architects for a price to reconfigure the yard.
Another option is to add space for the coroner to a new EMS base which will eventually need to be constructed in Knox. The current Medic 3 base on Main Street between Culver Road and Redskin Trail sits on land that’s included in the plans for the new hospital, according to IU Health Starke Hospital President Craig Felty. There’s also been confusion as to whether those plans include morgue space for the county. Felty tells WKVI news that was discussed early on in the process but never promised. It has since been eliminated from the design.
The council and commissioners were waiting on word about the coroner space before giving final approval to the renovation proposal. They could make a final decision during Monday’s joint meeting.
Money from the jail bond can also be used for work at the courthouse that is directly connected to criminal justice, such as the relocation of the prosecutor’s office from the basement of the old jail. Prosecutor Nicholas Bourff has also committed $10,000 from his pretrial diversion fund to the project. He says an additional $15,000 may be available for the project if it can be used solely for expenditures that relate to child support enforcement and collection.