By Mike Grant
---- — Daviess County officials are searching for more elbow room. A committee is looking at options trying to figure out what county offices need and how to provide the space that will meet those needs. Right now everything is on the table, but no decisions are close to being made.
County Auditor Gail Doades is a committee member.
"We are in the very beginning, beginning stage," she explained. The committee is getting organized and planning visits to counties that have either built new courthouses or annexes in recent years.
A trio of problems are driving the investigation. One is changes and expansion of programs and requirements on local government by the state. The other is security for the courts and offices and the last is storage. "There is always an issue of space," said County councilman Kenneth Solliday.
The county facilities have been going through some changes over the last decade. The Health Department and Extension Office both have moved out of the courthouse into nearby buildings. That space was part of a renovation that expanded the Prosecutor's Office.
Even newer facilities in the county are finding that changes in programs have run some of the operations out of space. The new jail was built to house the Community Corrections program. The expanded use of alternative sentencing like work release and home detention now has those offices out of space. "We have three and four people working out of each room," said Sheriff Jerry Harbstreit. "They have problems meeting with their clients."
That is in the process of changing. Community Corrections is in the process of securing new offices away from jail. "We will continue to house and handle the work release prisoners at the jail," said Harbstreit, "but the people who administer the programs will be at another site."
Storage issues are in part driven by state regulations. "We have specific rules we have to follow on documents that are handed down by the state," said Doades. "There are just some thing we have to keep and it has to be on a specific kind of paper and stored in climate controlled locations."
The county tried to solve the problem by moving some records to the old county garage. The old building has problems with birds and animals getting in the building. "That has not worked well," said Solliday.
The county has had some success in reducing paperwork and cut down on the need for storage. The Prosecutor's Office and courts have an initiative to to go paperless and utilize more electronic storage. "I'm going to free up a large amount of storage," said Prosecutor Daniel Murrie. "Going paperless has freed up a lot of space."
The use of space and security even has officials considering some big changes. One idea being floated to the facilities committee calls for moving the Auditor, Treasurer, Recorder and Assessor's offices out of the courthouse into a new structure that would be built on a vacant lot the county owns across from Our Lady of Hope Church. That would leave the courthouse for the operation of the courts. The move would also provide an opportunity to upgrade security in the courthouse.
County Council President Mike Myers believes the county needs to get a handle on its facility requirements. "The county needs an overall master plan to figure out what we need and what we're going to do."