The Starke County Commissioners may opt for quality over quantity when it comes to the comfort of courthouse staff in the proposed renovation plans. They’re in the midst of finalizing the bid packets for updates to the courthouse and renovations of the former jail across the street.
One option under consideration is the addition of a state-of-the-art, energy efficient heating and cooling system at the courthouse. It would allow the entire building to be heated and cooled with one system and would provide what is described as “excellent zone control” for the three floors.
The estimated $356,000 price tag is the downside, although the county could recoup that money within five to seven years via energy cost savings. Funding the heating and cooling system would eliminate money for other bid alternatives such as a security desk, sidewalks and a small courtroom at the courthouse. Starke Circuit Judge Kim Hall stressed the need to prioritize and says basic infrastructure needs top that list. He did ask the commissioners to look into whether a system like the one they are considering is in use at any other courthouses, and if so what kind of feedback has been given with regard to noise levels.
The commissioners agreed to do so before committing to the installation. Commissioner Kathy Norem says the county may not get another opportunity to take care of so-called “big ticket” upgrades like HVAC. She adds grant funds may be available from the state later in the year for less costly courthouse improvements.
County officials will also look into available energy efficiency updates from NIPSCO if they opt for the HVAC upgrade.
The third floor of the courthouse is already air conditioned. The initial design proposal would have added air conditioning to the first floor. However cooling the second floor is problematic due to the building’s age.