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Porter County officials looking at potential compromise over Memorial Opera House project

rendering of the Memorial Opera House and sheriff's residence renovation and expansion plans
rendering of the Memorial Opera House and sheriff's residence renovation and expansion plans

How big of a renovation the Memorial Opera House ends up getting remains up in the air. The majority of the Porter County Council supports a larger project that would rehabilitate the historic building and connect it to the former sheriff's residence. But the majority of the county commissioners want to look at lower-cost options, like renting out the sheriff's residence.

Sylvia Graham told the rest of the council Tuesday that they're trying to work on a compromise. "In my opinion, I would stick with the plan that we had. But, as you know, the commissioners are the executive branch of our government, and it's been told that they're not fully in agreement with the plan that we passed," Graham said.

Council member Greg Simms said a potential compromise could mean fixing the roof and other items to solidify the building, while reducing the size of the addition. "Not connect the buildings but expand the building, perhaps, a little bit to give it the more room and the bathrooms it may need. But, also, they're looking at the possibility of extending the back of it," Simms explained.

But council member Mike Brickner felt the commissioners shouldn't go back on something that was already approved. "I know elections have consequences, but we can't go back and change everything we've done because we have new people in positions," Brickner said.

Council President Jeremy Rivas continued advocating for the full project, saying the county needs to provide opportunities for youth who want to be involved in the arts. "We should make certain that we have facilities, that we have venues, that we have these opportunities for our kids to do that," Rivas said. "We don't want to throw kids in the back of squad cars, you know? We don't. We want them to go and have things to do."

Simms said architects are working with opera house staff to come up with more options.

Michael Gallenberger is a news reporter and producer that hosts All Things Considered on 89.1 FM | Lakeshore Public Media.