courthouse

The view of the Steuben County Courtyard, as seen from a Steuben Circuit Court office window, is generally where an addition to the courthouse will be located. Steuben County Commissioners on Monday gave the go-ahead to an engineering firm to start drawing up plans for the facility.

ANGOLA — Steuben County Board of Commissioners on Monday decided to hire a firm to start planning an addition to the Steuben County Courthouse.

The plan since November has been to erect an addition to the current historic Steuben County Courthouse in the courtyard just east of the existing structure built in 1867.

A ballpark figure given for the cost of addition was $10 million.

Commissioners agreed last year to put out a request for proposals from engineering firms to come up with a plan but decided to go no further than MartinRiley architects-engineers, Fort Wayne, to do the work. A couple years ago the company did an exhaustive study on courthouse needs, which included interviewing all of the stakeholders involved in the courts, same for litigants, to get an idea on needs.

Previously, commissioners felt putting the courthouse addition in the greenspace between the courthouse and businesses on the east side of the Public Square was the only option after plans to close off Gale Street to add on to the back of the Courthouse were shot down last fall by the Angola Common Council as a reflection of constituent disapproval.

MartinRiley’s Jack Daniels said he would have a “preplan” for commissioners to view in a meeting of the Steuben County Courthouse Committee on Thursday, Feb. 13, starting at 8:30 a.m.

“We’re not ready to design yet,” Daniels said.

When asked what sort of budget the county was looking at, Commissioner Lynne Liechty said, “In our previous discussions, our target, with council’s approval, will be around $10 million.”

The Steuben County Council is the county’s fiscal body and would have to approve all spending on a courthouse addition.

Liechty also said she though security technology would be very expensive and would be beyond the $10 million for the structure.

The current concept would make use of the current Courthouse while adding on toward the east. The project is being done in order to solve a number of shortcomings in the current structure that’s on the National Historic Register, including not meeting Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, a lack of space for court personnel, space and ADA considerations in the courtrooms themselves and numerous security concerns.

There has been a consensus that the addition should resemble the design of the current facility, which is a scaled-down replica of Boston’s famous Faneuil Hall.

While officials are being mindful of not harming the historic integrity of the Courthouse or the historic district, the plan would seem to go up against Angola’s Downtown 20/20 plan that was adopted in 2008. In that document, which in part led to the multimillion-dollar downtown revitalization project, it focused on the courtyard remaining an urban greenspace.

Officials have said the courtyard offered a best-case scenario of being able to build a new structure without dealing with much in the way of utilities relocation. Sanitary sewer and storm sewer lines run through the park underground. Along the south perimeter there are fiber optic cables. In the northeast corner of the courtyard there is a rain garden that handles storm water runoff for the east side of the Courthouse and businesses in the southeast quadrant in the Public Square.

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