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Don’t bank on bank building

Apparently, the renovation of the Harrison County Court House and old jail, both landmarks in downtown Corydon, is back on the front burner, after sitting on the shelf more than a year.
Officials had awaited the possible purchase of the Bank One building on the west side of North Capitol Avenue, adjacent to the jail, in hopes of using that building to free up crowded offices in the courthouse and to move offices in the county annex on Mulberry Street away from flood-prone Little Indian Creek. That purchase no longer appears to be a possibility, and, in fact, tourism promoters believe if the building becomes available, it should be redeveloped into a business that would attract visitors.
Now, the commissioners have asked RQAW, the same architectural firm that designed the Harrison County Justice Center on Gardner Lane, to develop a proposal for the work to be done and submit it for review.
There are several issues that should be addressed, among those eliminating at least part of the confusion among residents who don’t know where to go to pay a traffic ticket, apply for a marriage license, pick up a deed, or pay their property tax bill. As anyone who has spent any time at all in either the courthouse or the Justice Center can affirm, at least two or three lost souls are wandering around every day, searching for the right place to be. Needless to say, they’re usually miffed when they find themselves in the wrong place.
Perhaps a telephone inquiry first would eliminate such problems, but people don’t usually stop to think they might be wrong in the first place. And, occasionally, when an inquiry is made, the person who answers the phone gives wrong directions.
When the Justice Center was designed and constructed, it was with foresight: expansion would someday be necessary. If Harrison County continued to grow, more jail cells would be needed as well as more courtrooms and supporting offices, like the judge’s chambers, the clerk’s and prosecutor’s offices, the probation departments and so on.
Well, growth is no longer a question of if or when, and some action is needed.
We think it’s time to separate court stuff from property records, and move the circuit court, as well as the circuit clerk and juvenile probation department, to the Justice Center. Those offices could easily be accommodated with the addition of a third floor. Not only would that be easier for residents to keep separate in their minds (if it has to do with courts, go to the Justice Center), it would improve the efficiency of the two clerk’s offices to have them in the same place. Perhaps those two offices could or should be combined. After all, the circuit clerk is in charge of both, so there’s no need to keep them separated by walls when space is not a problem. The adult and juvenile probation offices might also join forces. It might be a relief for the probation officers to diversify their workload, handling both juvenile and adult probationers instead of one or the other, all the time.
There is also space to expand the parking lot in front of or behind the Justice Center, where vehicles now park helter-skelter on the side of the road or in the grass, often on Monday, a busy day in the courtroom as initial hearings are held for persons arrested over the weekend, or when a jury is picked from some 50 or so residents summoned to court for that purpose. Whether the Justice Center is expanded or not, more parking space is already needed.
Meanwhile, back downtown to the old courthouse: Moving the court and related offices to the Justice Center would free space to expand the cramped offices of the auditor, who needs more space than ever to keep track of the county’s money.
There probably wouldn’t be enough room in the courthouse for all the offices now in the annex – planning and zoning, the parks, extension service, etc. – but we still have the old, two-story jail, right across the street.
The commissioners and council should forge ahead with these plans and forget the old bank building. Obviously, we can’t wait forever.