Editorial: Commissioners should vote to preserve courthousePublished 9:52am Thursday, February 20, 2014
A single building on the corner of Broadway and State sits at the eye of a storm that has been building over the last year in Cassopolis.
The former Cass County courthouse has been closed for more than a decade. Since then, both the government and the public have discussed what to do with the building, especially in light of a mold infestation that has taken root inside.
The Cass County Board of Commissioners will make the first of likely several pivotal decisions concerning the future of the courthouse Thursday night. The board will vote on a resolution that, if approved, will allow the county to determine possible sources of funding to remove the mold and stabilize the building.
We believe that the commissioners should vote to approve this resolution.
This initial investment, which the county estimates will cost $275,000, isn’t a small chunk of change by any measure. It also isn’t a panacea for the problem, but more a salve; county officials have said in the past that this measure would likely buy them an additional year to determine what to do with the building.
However, this investment makes the most sense fiscally for the county. Officials estimate that demolition would cost around $1.5 million, and the mold issue will still have to be resolved before it would come down.
While the cost of restoration may eventually exceed that total, we believe that the courthouse can still provide value to both the village and the county. Besides offering potential space for private or public purposes, the century-old design of the courthouse is a unique sight among other buildings in Cass County.
We are also encouraged by the fact that the county appears to be garnering a lot of support around the community for any potential restoration projects. The county has angered residents in the past by pushing unpopular construction projects, so it’s a positive sign that they have engaged the public before proceeding with any renovations to the courthouse.
If the board does pass the resolution on Thursday, the road to restoration will likely be long and bumpy. However, the eventual payoff of a functional piece of history could make it worth the journey.
Opinions expressed are those of the editorial board consisting of Publisher Michael Caldwell and editors Craig Haupert, Ambrosia Neldon, Ted Yoakum and Scott Novak.