Southern Indiana

Southern Indiana officials are moving forward with plans to overhaul Floyd County’s government buildings.

County officials currently operate out of several different locations across New Albany, including the Pine View Government Center, the M. Lucille Reisz Building and the Baptist Health Floyd campus. It’s base for most services is the City-County Building, which opened 60 years ago as a shared government center for New Albany and Floyd County.

Now that New Albany has moved into its new city hall, county officials are looking to restructure their facilities.

“We have had a patchwork of infrastructure, like buying some of the old school buildings and moving government offices into those,” said Shawn Carruthers, president of the Floyd County Commissioners. “Those have worked for a time, but now we’re kind of spread out. And we’re at a point where we need to really take a hard look at where we are today and where we want to be in the future.”

City-County Building to become a judicial center

Last week, county commissioners approved a floor plan that will transform the City-County Building into a judicial center. The New Albany-Floyd County Building Authority, an organization comprising members appointed by the city and the county, is helping to guide the process.

Building authority board member Scott Stewart said the judicial center originally called for nearly 57,000 square feet, but architects had to condense those plans to fit in the 51,000-square-foot building. To make it work, some of the county’s administrative offices will be relocated.

“The first step was that analysis of the needs of our courts,” Stewart said. “We have one circuit court, three superior courts, and then the magistrate. What greater need will there be for court space in the coming decades?”

The project will increase the size of courtrooms and criminal justice offices. The county clerk’s office will move to the first floor and an auxiliary courtroom will be built in the basement.

Officials also want to relocate probation and community correction services from the M. Lucille Reisz Building on East Spring Street to the judicial center. One potential location for the probation offices is the Frank C. Denzinger Criminal Justice Center, which sits adjacent to the City-County Building. The county owns the building, but it’s currently occupied by the New Albany Police Department.

Stewart said he feels a sense of urgency to repair the aging City-County Building and hopes to present financing options to commissioners by the end of November. Work on the City-County Building could wrap up between late 2023 and mid-2024.

“No longer can the can be kicked down the street,” Stewart said. “These are not easy decisions, because spending money is not an easy decision. But we cannot defer to future elected officials to make decisions on what to do with a building that requires an intervention today.”

Consolidating administrative services

The renovation is just one part of Floyd County’s three-pronged restructuring plan. The county wants to bring administrative functions together under one roof.

The new administrative center will hold offices for the auditor, treasure, surveyor, assessor and recorder and host county board meetings. That will eliminate the need for the Pine View Government Center. But the location of the new complex is still up in the air.

Two options are being considered: renovating the historic North Annex property on Grant Line Road or building a new structure downtown.

“Part of that is going to depend on the condition of the building on Grant Line Road,” Stewart said. “The cost of building on to downtown, if that is something that we want to consider seriously, obviously parking and other issues like that will factor into the decision.”

Stewart said he likes the Annex property’s proximity to Sam Peden Community Park, the largest in the county. He said he also thinks there’s the potential to partner with libraries, health care groups and other nonprofits and build a community center on the site.

Relocating the health department

The third component of Floyd County’s government facilities shakeup is finding a new home for the health department.  

It’s currently located on the Baptist Health Floyd campus, but the department’s agreement with the hospital to use the building is expiring soon.

Carruthers, president of the Floyd County Commissioners, said the M. Lucille Reisz building would be a “perfect” location for the health department, if the county can successfully move probation services to the judicial center.

“We want to make sure that our government is accessible to people that need those services, and so the Reisz building kind of fits right into that perfect piece of the puzzle for us right there,” Carruthers said. “That one was, to me, a no-brainer to really take a hard look at that location and make that a health department, because we have a need. We understand that we have a limited amount of time at the current location, and we’ve outgrown that.”

John Boyle is a reporter and editor at WFPL news focused on Southern Indiana. He is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.