County officials hope to have a firm grasp on the cost of necessary renovations to the Bartholomew County Courthouse before the end of the year.

Commissioners have awarded DLZ Indiana a $7,000 contract to perform a life-cycle cost analysis.

“That means looking at all the elements of the building,” DLZ engineer Charlie Day said. “Mechanical, electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning and architectural.”

Significant erosion to the limestone foundation and brickwork below vents on the lower part of the clock tower must be addressed quickly, county maintenance director Rick Trimpe told the Bartholomew County commissioners in September.

While the work isn’t likely to disrupt the courts and other county offices in the 142-year-old building, the cost could be in excess of $1 million, Trimpe said.

After being alerted to the problem, commissioner Larry Kleinhenz used a pair of binoculars to examine damage to the clock tower.

“There’s some serious erosion going on,” he said.

If damage to the historic building isn’t taken care of, the erosion will get progressively worse — and more expensive to correct, Trimpe said.

Without quick attention, moisture caught in cracks of the stone will begin seeping into the interior, dissolving mortar joints and popping the faces off the brick, he said.

“We need to get on this and get it fixed,” Trimpe said.

Exterior erosion was last addressed after similar damage was discovered over a much larger area of the building in 1997, Kleinhenz said.

Most of the labor was performed 20 years ago by county employees, and Trimpe said he believes his staff is also capable of handling the new work, he told the commissioners.

The need to repair significant county-owned properties, including the courthouse, has increased pressure on the three county commissioners to levy a new cumulative capital development tax that is already assessed by a vast majority of Indiana counties, Bartholomew County Auditor Barb Hackman said.

If enacted, it would increase taxes on all residential and business real estate by .0166 cents per $100 of assessed valuation the first year, raising between $600,000 and $700,000, according to Hackman’s estimates.

For a property owner with a home assessed at $100,000 who takes normal deductions, the first-year impact would be $5.44, Hackman said. For owners of a $200,000 assessed residence, the tax liability would be $16.26 annually, she said.

That would be followed by up to .033 cents annually — double the amount — in subsequent years, creating between $1.2 million and $1.3 million in additional revenue, the auditor said.

But even if the commissioners approved the new tax this year, collections would not take effect until 2017 — and monies will not be received by county government until 2018, Hackman said.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.