A potential cost for renovations to the courthouse and old jail were introduced in the Warrick County Council meeting last week.

The Warrick County Commissioners brought the $8.54 million proposal to the council after contracting Energy Systems Group to assess the needed updates and areas for improvement.

Administrator Roger Emmons said the commissioners are beginning the process to request funding for the project.

In addition to the renovation and updates to the Warrick County Courthouse, Emmons said the project will include upgrades at the Warrick County Judicial Center and the Warrick County Jail as well as the stabilization and reconstruction of the Historic Warrick County Jail.

He said as other projects are completing and payments are ending, the county has the opportunity to take on a new project.

"Because we paid off the debt for the Judicial Center, that frees up principal," he said. "This particular bond could be retired fairly quickly."

Emmons said ESG is the only company who submitted a proposal for the project despite interest from other companies. He added that the company is capable of obtaining bonds for the project.

Commissioner Marlin Weisheit said ESG will work as the general contractor with architects and engineers on staff for the project, bringing in other local companies to complete the work.

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"If they get this contract, they'll be bidding out to local contractors and local vendors, but we'll have final say so on who does the work," he said.

Weisheit and Emmons said because the projects will still have yet to be bid out individually, the introduced amount is just an estimate at this point. They said the final amount may be less than the estimate as the bids for the individual projects are tallied up.

"We firmly believe that once this process develops and they get the bids, this amount will greatly reduce," Emmons said.

Ultimately, Weisheit and Emmons said the project is work that has to be done.

They said without the updates, the buildings will continue to suffer.

"We know we have to do something there," Weisheit said of the historic jail. "It's on the historical register. We can't let it fall down, we can't tear it down. Nobody's going to take it. We can't give it away."

However, Weisheit said the commissioners have been in conversations with organizations such as the Southwest Indiana Economic Development Coalition to find options for grants to do the work. He said there are some options, but those options may still be matching grants.

"We're pursuing grants as they come available," he said. "We'll continue to do that. We don't want to borrow any more money than we have to, but we have to get the buildings up in shape."

In the end, the council decided to spend more time discussing the project and the possibilities. The moved to start their regular meeting in December an hour early to give time to the topic.

The issue will be taken up again in the council's December meeting on Thursday, Dec. 7, at 5 p.m.

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