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Any Berrien County campus should be centrally located

Published 11:05pm Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Berrien County is evaluating an array of options to address infrastructure needs of animal control and the health department with the idea of achieving future operational savings while developing the 2013 budget.

Next year promises to be extremely challenging, according to the presentation made a week ago by County Administrator Bill Wolf.

It would cost $10.7 million to $13.7 million to build new facilities on 48 acres of land the county acquired in August 2010 at 2393 E. Napier Ave. near Lake Michigan College in Benton Charter Township.

Another alternative would be 26 acres in the same vicinity with two large buildings leased by Tyler Honda, which is relocating to Lincoln Township. Remodeling those could cost $7.3 to $8.3 million.

Shuffling various county functions into other available spaces in phases is a third possibility. Consolidation costs $1.9 million for a stopgap measure which adversely impacts South County if circuit court and the prosecutor’s office move to St. Joseph and health department administration fills the void.

Officials of Niles, Berrien County’s largest city, justifiably erupted Monday night.

They know if the campus concept takes root in Berrien’s northern tip there will be no turning back, though we can’t imagine the health department is any more thrilled than Niles with the prospect of being dispersed in a different direction.

If Berrien County intends to develop a county campus, it needs to be centrally located — not in the fifth of six tiers if you stack the 22 townships.

With a population of 156,813 in 2010, ranking 12th in Michigan, Berrien is an unwieldy, 585-square-mile anomaly better suited to two counties.

Berrien Springs was the county seat in the 1830s. A vote moved it to St. Joseph in 1894. It’s time to take another look.

This editorial represents the views of the editorial board.

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