Project to restore county courthouse needs to involve more than just commissioners

Published 8:00 am Friday, September 25, 2015

The rooftop of one of Cassopolis’ oldest structures came alive with activity this week.

Construction began on the project to replace the ailing roofing of the old Cass County courthouse, located next to the current county annex building in downtown Cassopolis. The work, which is expected to take several weeks to complete, marks the last major step in the first phase of the county government’s massive undertaking to restore and reuse the 116-year-old building, which has sat dormant for more than a decade.

The next step is finding out just exactly who and what will occupy the historic building, should it be fully restored.

That’s where you, the Cass County resident and taxpayer, come in.

Since the county board of commissioners and the ad-hoc committee devoted toward the project got it off the ground nearly two years ago, leaders have been courting input from the public about the project. Last year, the courthouse committee sent out a survey to residents across the county — and received 400 responses, the majority of which were in favor of saving the building.

While not an insignificant sample by any means, 400 people are but a fraction of the nearly 52,000 people who call Cass County home.

As the county leadership tries to make perhaps the most significant decision in the life of the restoration process — determining how the building will be reused — input from the public will be critical.

The possibilities of what a restored courthouse could provide a home for are practically endless.

It could again house important county government offices. It could serve as a quaint wedding chapel. It could serve as a tourist information spot. It could even serve as an upscale restaurant.

Perhaps you have an idea on what it could be as well. But unless you share it, there’s a good chance it will never make the list of possibilities.

Even if you don’t support the project, now is the time to make your voice heard in that regard as well. The county has already earmarked a quarter of million dollars just toward getting the courthouse in stable condition — it will likely spend much more than that to fully renovate the structure.

We encourage Cass County taxpayers to follow the county’s efforts in the months ahead, and let leaders know exactly what you want to see when the final nail gets hammered and the last brick is laid.

Because ultimately, that courthouse has, does and will continue to serve us, the public.


Opinions expressed are those of the editorial board consisting of Publisher Michael Caldwell and editors Ambrosia Neldon, Craig Haupert, Ted Yoakum and Scott Novak.