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Commissioners ponder bank job (jail job, too)

The way Harrison County Commissioner J.R. Eckart puts it, “breaking into the old jail from the bank” might not be as easy as first thought.
A deal is temporarily on hold to buy the Bank One building on the south side of the now vacant jail, connect the two buildings with a ramp for accessibility, and use the space as a county government complex.
“It’s a little frustrating,” Eckart said. “We would really like to get this program underway.”
Funding to buy the bank building, some $672,000, was approved in May by the Harrison County Council, and a purchase agreement submitted to Bank One. But, Eckart said, as the agreement traveled up the rungs of the corporate ladder, execs began to question how prudent it would be to give up a downtown presence in Corydon, the county seat.
The bank initially wanted to remain in the building as a branch office, with only about 800 square feet. Now that figure has jumped to 3,000, which is more than the county can give up and still have enough space to fill its own needs.
That might not be a deal breaker, depending on several factors, including whether the bank would only want the space for a limited time, but details are yet to be determined, said commission chair Terry L. Miller.
If an agreement is reached for the bank to retain more square footage, a cut in the purchase price hasn’t been determined, said county attorney David A. Layson.
Altogether, the building has about 7,000 square feet of usable space. If Harrison County were limited to 4,000, that would include the second floor and part of the first, Eckart said.
According to the plan announced earlier, if the bank purchase is successful, county offices now in the annex on South Mulberry Street would be moved into the bank building, to avoid routine threats of flood. The annex sits on the bank of Little Indian Creek, which flooded the building in the spring of 1997. It took months to rid the building of mud and make repairs. Some county records and equipment were extensively damaged.
Currently, the annex houses the planning and zoning department, parks department, extension service, emergency management, weights and measures, and veterans service offices.
Because the bank has an elevator, the purchase would provide handicap access to the two-story jail building next door. To accomplish that, a walkway would be constructed to connect the two buildings on the second floor. The old jail could then be used for offices and, perhaps, archive storage.
If the county is unable to purchase the bank building, another option would be to construct a facility for that purpose, possibly on county-owned land at the Justice Center location, Miller said. The main courthouse would remain downtown, although at least one faction would prefer to move rather than renovate an old building put up in 1929.

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