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Porter County Commissioners explain sheriff's residence rental proposal

Porter County IN government website

The Porter County Commissioners are explaining their reasons for renting out the former sheriff's residence.

During Monday's meeting, Commissioner Barb Regnitz said it's a "gorgeous old building" at the corner of Franklin and Indiana in Valparaiso. But it's been off-limits to the public since the Porter County Museum closed during the COVID shutdown and then moved across the street.

"It really has not even been open to the public for three years, and I felt that it was such a shame for it to sit vacant and not get utilized. Now, that buildings does need work. There is no doubt about it. But I think it's well worth restoring it," Regnitz said.

The proposal calls for the tenant to make any needed improvements — like reinstalling the first-floor restrooms — while maintaining the building's historic character. In exchange, they'd get a discount on their rent. But that could also effectively kill the current plans for the Memorial Opera House renovation, which would have connected the two buildings.

Commissioner Jim Biggs noted that even though the building is closed, it still costs money to maintain. "The electric bill alone, over that three-year period of time, has ran over $30,000, just in the electric bill. So, you know, getting some money back out of it, plus getting somebody to lease it with the understanding that they're going to go in and make some improvements to the interior of the building — I just think that's a win-win for the taxpayers," Biggs said.

The commissioners are currently waiting for two appraisals to determine the fair market rent. Then, they could start taking bids from potential renters and start negotiations.