Frequently Asked Questions
Why merge the two courthouses into one courthouse?
Operating two court facilities in two different cities has always created confusion for users and undue financial burden for local taxpayers. Now that our local courts system has outgrown the existing two facilities, they cannot be upgraded to meet modern standards. It’s time to build a consolidated court system in one central location.
Why not build two new courthouses?
The construction of two new facilities as opposed to one consolidated facility nearly doubles the cost for taxpayers in Elkhart County. The cost to run two separate courthouses is also too much to ask local taxpayers. The prudent decision is to build one facility where new efficiencies will improve operations and reduce costs overall.
What will happen to the courthouse in the city of Elkhart?
While plans call for demolition, we are already in conversation with different parties regarding the redevelopment of this valuable downtown site. County government will be working with the City of Elkhart in any such repurposing plans. Ideally, we will attract a taxpaying entity to downtown Elkhart.
What will happen to the beautiful Goshen courthouse building?
The historic Goshen courthouse building will remain where it is. It will be occupied. And it will be preserved, as it should be, for generations to come.
Why not accept the Elkhart Mayor’s offer to build a modern consolidated court system in downtown Elkhart?
The Mayor’s offer is intriguing. However, after studying his proposal, it’s clear that it will add nearly twenty million dollars of taxpayer cost to the project — including nearly a million dollars in interest on the bond issue. The added interest would occur because developing a new plan at this late date will create at least a 9-12 month delay. Consolidation and centralization have been in the works for nearly two years. As prudent county leaders, we cannot ask local taxpayers to incur an additional 20 million dollars for a last minute idea.
Elkhart is our largest city. Again, why not consolidate the courts in the city of Elkhart?
Yes, Elkhart is our largest city. But 75 percent of county taxpayers live somewhere other than the City of Elkhart. Citizens from Goshen, Bristol, Nappanee, Wakarusa and Middlebury deserve equal access to our local justice system. Elkhart County leaders have talked about consolidating in one central location since the early 1990s.’ Centralizing and consolidating will benefit every citizen of Elkhart County.
City of Elkhart officials say that the plan to consolidate courts in a location that’s central to every city and town in the county, will harm downtown Elkhart financially. Is that true?
No. There is no evidence to show that a non-taxpaying entity such as our courts system, affects a downtown in a positive or a negative way. However, it should be noted that the value of the land that the Elkhart court sits on is significant. A taxpaying entity on this piece of property will benefit the city of Elkhart more than a non-taxpaying entity like the court facility.
Are there other benefits to a central location?
Yes. There are many other benefits. A central location will allow for future expansions as our county population grows. A downtown location would not allow for such expansion. And, one central location will also reduce expensive duplication of services. For example, we now have a County Clerk’s office at the Goshen facility, and duplicate County Clerk’s office in the Elkhart Facility. In a consolidated and centralized facility, our citizens will only need one office. There are many other examples of this kind of efficiency and cost savings for county taxpayers.
Where will the new courthouse be located?
The new court facilities will be located in the center of Elkhart County so that all citizens have equal access. The location, which was recommended by the County Commissioners and approved by the County Council on November 14, 2020, is at 1905 Reliance Road at the western edge of Goshen.
The Reliance Road site was chosen after studying more than 2 dozen potential locations over the past 18 months. The 32 acre location, on the west side of County Road 17 provides the necessary room required for modern security and future growth.
The site will also enable Elkhart County to consolidate systems, offices and services, which will lead to lower operational costs, and improved efficiencies and services.
Elkhart County courts are becoming more digital and requiring fewer in-person visits. If this is the case, why do we need to build a new courts facility at all?
We’re proud that our Elkhart County courts system is a pioneer in the digital courtroom space. But you should also know that our new consolidated courts facility will require less overall space than the current separated courts in Goshen and Elkhart use. This is one of the reasons it will cost taxpayers less to operate county courts once we consolidate. But, we will always need real courtroom space. Constitutionally, everyone has the right to appear in person before a judge or jury. So while we will be using less overall space in a new consolidated facility, we will still need space.
What is a bond?
A bond can be thought of as an I.O.U. Governments issue bonds (I.O.U.s) when they need money for large scale public projects. Investors buy bonds. And government pays the investor back with interest over a set amount of time. This is similar to someone taking out a loan to purchase a car. But, in the case of public project, the loan amount is much higher.
What about economic impact? Shouldn’t that be a consideration when we talk about consolidation?
Our focus is about fair access to the justice system for every citizen in the county. Having a centrally located, more secure, efficient and accessible courts benefits everyone in our county, not just a few in a specific community. We have an obligation use tax dollars wisely for the benefit of everyone in the County.