ANDERSON, Ind. - County government offices will have a new home for up to seven months as their permanent offices are cleared of asbestos. Leaders are still ironing out the exact details, but hope to have the county courthouses and government building emptied by the start of December so work can begin.
The asbestos issue, which can cause a serious respiratory disease, was first discovered by workers who were hired to replace the county building's HVAC with a new energy-saving unit.
"Some of the fire-proofing looked suspicious to the workers up there," said county administrator Dan Dykes. "They asked us to have it tested and it came back as asbestos."
Madison County leaders have said the air quality is good and shouldn't worry the more than 200 county employees who work there or the other 1,300 visitors the building sees each business day. Officials decided something still needed to be done.
“We don’t always get the news we want to get, but if I’m faced with an issue, as a commissioner, we deal with it," said Madison County Commissioner Steffanie Owens, a Republican.
The resolution is to put the 30 government offices in to temporary offices until the asbestos can be removed.
Courthouses, judges, the county clerk and the prosecutor's office will locate to Flagship Center at the southern edge of Anderson.
Other offices will move a couple blocks away from the government building to the Anderson Tower, located at the corner of 10th and Jackson.
Security will remain at the government building while work is underway.
With an empty building for up to seven months, the county is now looking to make other improvements to the building.
“When the people move back in, they’ll basically move back into a clean, new office," Dykes said. "New carpeting, paint, new tiles, new LED lights. Now is the time to do it while everyone is out of the building. We can get anything that isn’t right, fixed.”
Work still needs to go to bid. Dykes believes the total cost, including the price of renting office space, should cost roughly $3.5 million. He said the new lighting and HVAC will save the county money in the long-run.
Owens didn't think the additional cost would cost taxpayers. “We don’t want to do anything with taxes on this, and the commissioners are working hard with the council to make sure that doesn’t happen," she said.
The owners of the office space the county will soon use have already allowed the county inside to find the best way to lay out which offices will go where. Residents needing to use an office at the Anderson Tower will be able to use parking at the regular government building and only have an additional block or two to walk.
Asbestos removal is already underway in the handler room of the building's first floor, according to the Madison County Commissioners. The work is getting done first so the county's new boilers can be put in place before they're needed this winter.
Once specific locations are known, the county will get out directions to help residents during the seven-months.