County cuts ribbon on building expansion

Published 2:34 am Thursday, January 15, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- A dedication ceremony for the South County Building Expansion was held at the new building on Wednesday afternoon and featured a number of speakers who were involved in the project.
The expansion, which will more than double the size of the old structure, features two new courtrooms and a number of other benefits.
Mike Henry, Berrien County coordinator, began the dedication by welcoming the public and thanking everyone who played a role in getting the expansion done.
One of the speakers, Jim Converse, Finance Committee Chairman for the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, said, "We are excited and proud to see another project come to completion."
He said the expansion was a project county officials started to talk about in the early 1990s.
Before they began planning the expansion, the county conducted a study to determine the population distribution of its residents. The study revealed that 49,000 people live in a 10-mile radius of the building's location.
Converse said this number represented 30 percent of the county's population at the time.
Former Niles Mayor Larry Clymer, who is currently a Berrien County Commissioner, said this type of building was something he saw a need for when he was the city's mayor more than 20 years ago.
Building Authority Chairman Milt Converse said the cost of the project was $5.6 million from start to finish.
He said it was a good feeling to be "on time and within budget."
Another speaker at the dedication was Berrien County Trial Court Judge Paul Maloney, who said the county courts have "a very unique and strong working relationship with the board of county commissioners."
He said this expansion project was a true testament to that relationship.
The final speaker was Bret Witkowski, chairman of the County Board of Commissioners.
He pointed to the fact that the county's landfills played a large role in the building's expansion.
Berrien County is one of two counties in Michigan with three landfills.
Berrien County charges fees to companies from outside the county who use of the landfills.
Witkowski said money generated from those landfills is put into a fund for the county's infrastructure improvements.
He said this was a big reason why the county was able to fund the project without raising taxes or cutting services.
He also said the new building will be one less worry for the future county boards and residents.
The dedication ended with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and the building is scheduled to be open for business on Monday.