City officials say no to center

City officials have decided not to help fund a $12.1 million project to build a judicial center to house Jackson County’s three courts in Brownstown.

Seymour City Council members voted unanimously against a resolution Monday night to enter into an agreement with the county to provide 25 percent of the city’s share of local option income tax economic development revenue annually for the project.

Town councils from the county’s other municipalities — Brownstown, Crothersville and Medora — already have signed the agreement, but Seymour has the most to lose, city officials said.

A county economic development income tax at a rate of 25 cents per $100 of income was put in place in 1998 to help fund construction of the jail and juvenile center. At that time, each of the county’s four municipalities also received revenue from the tax and agreed to give up 25 cents of their shares to help with the project. That $10 million project will be paid off in 2018, freeing up revenue to fund the judicial center.

Councilman Lloyd Hudson said he doesn’t want to see the city lose the only court located here because it would be an inconvenience for a majority of the people who use it.

That court, Jackson Superior Court I, is at 1420 Corporate Way on the city’s west side, while Jackson Circuit Court and Jackson Superior Court II are both located in Brownstown.

Jackson Superior Court I handles misdemeanor cases, small claims, complaints, foreclosures and similar cases; Jackson Circuit Court mainly deals with felony cases; and Jackson Superior Court II receives juvenile cases, child support, dissolutions and other family issues.

“There are a lot of people against losing the court here,” Hudson said. “If they have to travel to Brownstown to get to court, to me, that’s going to be a problem.”

He also said he feels like the city would be handing over a blank check to the county because repayment could be stretched out too long by refinancing.

Council President Jim Rebber said he’s not OK with letting Superior Court I move to Brownstown, either, or giving what he calculated to be $5.6 million to the county for the project over a period of 20 years.

“I do not believe that the Seymour taxpayers would support doing this,” he said.

Rebber said better uses for the $5.6 million would be the Burkart South extension and railroad overpass project or the construction of a new city fire station.

Councilman John Reinhart said too many people fought for years to get a courthouse in Seymour for city council to just walk away from it.

County Councilman Brian Thompson said the judicial center will get built with or without the city’s financial support because construction is set to begin this spring.

Bids for general construction are being reviewed by the county attorney and consultant and could be awarded during the next county commissioners meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the courthouse annex in Brownstown.

“We will have to look at the new numbers now and figure out how to deal with it,” Thompson said.

He said the bid specifications include a lot of alternates.

“So we can break stuff out and have a basic structure and do the job we need to do on a smaller budget and not have some of the nicer things we thought maybe would be useful or maybe even efficient in the future,” Thompson said.

“It’s still a good plan,” he added.

Thompson said locating the three courts in one building in one central location, Brownstown, makes sense economically. Two of the three courts already are located in Brownstown.

The judicial center also would be more efficient, make it easier to provide security, and eliminates some of the confusion about where people need to go when they have business with a court, he said.

He said the committees who worked on the project over the years decided on the setup for the building and its location.

“They looked at all of the different options and chose what was the best, and I support that,” Thompson said.

City council members said they had not been included in those discussions and had never been asked to provide funding until now.

Mayor Craig Luedeman said he was contacted by a county official right before Monday’s meeting to ask if the matter could be tabled so county council members could educate city council members more on the project.

“If it was that important that they feel like they need to come talk to us about it at the last minute, why weren’t they talking to us before?” asked Councilman Dave Earley.

Both Earley and Rebber said no amount of discussion now would change their minds.

Councilman Shawn Malone said he had reached out to a county councilman personally and got no response.