There is a plan for the courthouse

Regarding the restoration of the 1899 courthouse, there seems to be a great deal of confusion, finger pointing and posturing, claiming that the Vintage Courthouse Committee has no plan and has wasted taxpayer money.

As a member of that committee, I feel it necessary to state clearly there is a plan and there has always been a plan for the vintage courthouse. A decade ago the county commission and the building authority abandoned our courthouse. The result of that decision was decay and deterioration.

Two years ago some members of the current board of commissioners decided they had to take responsibility for that folly. The choice was to tear down the building at a cost to taxpayers of at least one million dollars, or to save the building for future use. A plan was devised.

Experts determined that it would take about $275,000 to stabilize the building, buying time to determine best use and find the money to make that happen.

The first step in the plan was to ask taxpayers in Cass County if they wanted to save the courthouse. The result of that survey was a resounding yes.

The next step in the plan was to stabilize the building. The 275,000 was found in the budget — no new taxpayer money. Now the courthouse is stabilized. The building is saved, sound and ready for the next step in the plan.  And this is due to the tireless work of three Cass County Commissioners — Bernie Williamson, Bob Ziliak, Roseann Marchetti and Public Works Director Dave Dickey.

In two short years, the vintage courthouse has gone from a sad, deteriorating relic to a shining light of possibility. The next step in the plan is to determine best use and find the money to make it happen. The commissioners have gone around the county gathering ideas for use, and are compiling the data now.

The Vintage Courthouse Committee will be meeting to talk about the results and take the next step in the plan, which is to look at the possibilities and determine which way to go. The possibilities include outright selling the building, creating a multi-use space that includes some county offices, public and private functions; selling/renting the courthouse annex, any combination of the above; or something else entirely. This is where we are. We have stabilized the courthouse and can take our time to find best use and money. Exhale.

There isn’t enough room here to go into more detail. If you’re interested in the future of our courthouse, come to the next Vintage Courthouse Committee meeting, which will be advertised on the Cass County website.

 

Cathy LaPointe

Cassopolis

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