Bartholomew County government has a challenge, and it needs a solution. The 142-year-old courthouse is in need of repairs that could cost about $1 million. The problem is that the county finds itself cash-strapped.
Erosion of the limestone foundation and brickwork below vents on the lower part of the clock tower need to be addressed before those issues lead to more problems, such as moisture seeping into the interior and dissolving mortar joints and popping the faces off bricks.
This isn’t the first time the county has had to deal with significant maintenance of the courthouse. Erosion and physical deterioration problems were addressed in 1997, but only half of the needed fixes were made because county officials thought they could get by.
The time for getting by is no more. And neither should be the county council’s cut-to-the-bone approach to its annual budget crafting.
In addition to providing the funds necessary for the various county offices to operate, the county’s budget needs to reflect an adequate means for ongoing maintenance of properties such as the courthouse, where residents go for services.
Patch jobs and partial fixes only kick the problem down the road to be addressed again — and usually at a significant, if not greater, cost.
It’s time for the county council to seriously consider enacting a new revenue stream to help pay for maintenance costs and other needs — such as public safety equipment and competitive pay to attract and retain county employees. One way would be to levy a cumulative capital development tax, which most counties already assess.
The council controls the purse strings and too often uses funds needed for important projects to pay for emergencies.
Patching problems in this fashion isn’t sustainable. At some point the county must have greater financial resources to sufficiently address its needs.
The looming courthouse repairs should spark a greater interest in creating a new revenue stream.