Professional Analysis

"The physical limitations of this building cannot be resolved with a remodeling project"

— Courts Project Consultant (PMSI, Inc.)

Analysis of Elkhart County's Courthouses Located in Goshen and the City of Elkhart

PMSI is an Indiana Consulting firm which specializes in Municipal justice projects. They have been serving Counties and Cities in Indiana in this capacity since 1989. PMSI has conducted countless jail and justice studies as well as represented Counties and Cities to plan, organize, procure, and oversee the planning and construction of their jails, Courthouses, Police Stations, and Fire Station projects for the past 30 years. PMSI’s reputation for understanding Justice Systems and facilities is unsurpassed.

 

The County Commissioners of Elkhart County asked PMSI (the consulting firm) to analyze the two Elkhart County Courts facilities in the City of Goshen and the City of Elkhart. This analysis was to include the investigation of the possibility of combining the two Courts facilities into one new facility. PMSI was to investigate the current physical condition of the two facilities as well as the operational conditions which exist in the two facilities. This study was conducted in the third and fourth quarter of 2019.

PMSI’s team of experts toured and inspected each facility, observed the courts and court services, and all departments during normal daily business, and conducted detailed one on one meetings with each judge and court services department head to get in depth understanding of day to day procedures and practices.

It was known from the beginning that Elkhart County is quite unique in that they have two County Courthouses. 90 of the 92 Indiana Counties have one Courthouse to serve the needs of their County.

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Goshen Courthouse

The Goshen Courthouse is a typical historic model built on a “square” in a downtown location. The facility is constructed of limestone and brick with entry doors on all four sides and significant steps leading up to three of the...

Elkhart County Court

The Elkhart Courthouse is anything but typical. Part of the Courthouse was a refurbished high school and the other part was new construction. The two halves do not fit well together. A ramp system is used to connect...

Cost Implications

Elkhart County has additional expenses due to the nature of operating the County’s Courts business in two separate locations. Those costs come from a duplication of services in the two locations, a duplication of space needed, staff cost and time in traveling back and forth between the two facilities, and increased energy costs from the two inefficient buildings. Additionally, maintenance items like heating and cooling systems and roofs are very expensive when they need replaced. To have to provide for that in two separate locations can be quite burdensome.

Should the County consolidate their Courts facilities into one new location the community should expect to see greater efficiency, security and accessibility. The benefits of the new space will eliminate the duplication of services. The staff and Sheriff transports will no longer need to travel back and forth between the two cities which will be a significant savings in time and money. The new facility would be built to the current energy efficiency standards which would further reduce energy costs. And having one roof and HVAC system to maintain will be much less costly than two.

Security

As has been already stated, the security in the current two older facilities is not at all appropriate to protect, first and foremost, the public, Defendants, Court staff, Judges and others. The world we live in today requires a completely different level of security than what was needed several decades ago. Elkhart County needs to construct new Courts facilities to protect all of its community which uses these buildings.

Summary

Elkhart County’s two current Courthouses are not adequate to meet the needs of its current Justice System, let alone the future needs. There are major flaws in security and operation caused by the building locations and layouts. Maintaining two facilities is much more expensive than one, and there is not enough space in the current structures to meet the current or future needs of the Courts.

To replace separate facilities in both locations would require the county to finance two separate projects and would increase the financing and construction costs significantly. Building two new separate courthouses would be fiscally irresponsible with taxpayer dollars. By building one new consolidated Courthouse, the County will be able to solve the problems inherent in the current two locations and do it in the most cost-efficient manner for both the building costs itself and for the ongoing operations costs.

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