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Court building subject of review

March 10, 2011

Randy Colclasure

    What might downtown Decatur and near-downtown look like in a few years?
    It could appear quite a bit different, depending on what decisions are made regarding the location of Adams Superior Court and the county probation department.
    At Tuesday's meeting of the county council, the president of that group, Randy Colclasure, who is a member of the Courthouse Review Committee that's discussing ideas about keeping the court and the probation office where they are or moving them, said there are three main ideas plus a few other concepts.
    The top three ideas are as follows, Colclasure stated:
    (1) Keep the court and the probation staff in the same building, which was built in 1905 as the Decatur Public Library, but "gut it," said Colclasure, and install better floor supports, a new foundation, and a new roof. There could also be an addition put on the building. Such a project would retain the classic external design of the building.
    (2) Build a new court/probation structure on the county parking lot beside the current building, then tear down the existing structure. Some parking could be created on the empty lot, but there has been talk about the city library expanding. The library is next to the current court/probation building.
    (3) Erect a building at the northeast corner of Third and Madison Sts., a short block north of the present site and closer to the courthouse. To do so, some buildings would have to be bought and demolished.
    Colclasure added that if option three is adopted, the building might become a city-county building, with part of it for superior court and the probation staff and part of it for Decatur City Hall, which is now a block farther north, facing Monroe St.
    The council president said there has also been an idea set forth to close the block of Madison St. between Second and Third Sts. and to create cul-de-sacs there for a park-like appearance.
    In addition, Colclasure reported that the former Rice Hotel, most recently a Pentecostal church at Third and Madison Sts. could be bought and that the adjacent Kintz Insurance Agency building is up for sale. The Kintz firm plans to move into a nearby building at Fourth and Monroe Sts. that formerly contained the Movie Gallery business.
    If the church and insurance business buildings were demolished, a governmental/judicial building could be put up there.
    However, no decisions have been made and nothing is likely to be decided by the committee until around May, Colclasure said, noting that the committee will set out its ideas in a public hearing to get the views of the people.
    In a related matter, Colclasure said he is the only member of the county council on the Courthouse Review Committee and, with his work schedule in Fort Wayne, he missed the committee's last two meetings.
    Thus, Colclasure suggested that another council member be added to the committee so someone from the council will always be at the meetings. Councilman Stan Stoppenhagen volunteered and was named by the rest of the council.
    The council — with members Kenyon Sprunger and Dennis Bluhm absent and with Colclasure not voting because he only breaks ties — decided 4-0 to support Monday's 3-0 decision by the county commissioners to make two doorways in the superior court building operate automatically and to replace one door inside the building with two doors and thereby comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    The door changes will help people with handicaps get in and out of the building.
    Steve Krull, the county's superintendent of facilities and grounds, told the council that Kinder Construction of Fort Wayne would do the work for approximately $13,500, which includes replacing some floor tile that will probably be damaged during the project as well as drywall, painting, etc.
    Krull added that the automatic door-opening systems will be saved and used in another building if the present superior court/probation building is demolished.
    He also guessed it will take "two to three years" before any major changes to or move from the current building.

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