12:16 PM EST, March 7, 2013
BERRIEN COUNTY -- This morning in a 7 to 2 vote the Berrien County Commission approved spending $11 million in taxpayer dollars on a plan which includes the purchase of a former car dealership. This is a first step in creating a county campus.
The county will buy this 26 acre plot on Napier and I-94. It's the old Honda dealership on Napier.
Under this plan, the building will be turned into a health department facility to consolidate the five health department buildings in the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor area.
The county will also build a new Animal Control facility on the land. The old Animal Control facility is outdated, cramped, and some county leaders believe it is unhealthy for pets and people.
And part of the money will be used to renovate the ground floor of the jail.
There had been some opposition to the plan. Some are concerned the land is too close to St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, the northern part of the county, and is not centrally located.
“While it is not geographically center to the county it is really only 2/3rds up from the southern border and it is closer to the major population center,” said Bill Wolf, Berrien County administrator.
Construction will start in the next few weeks and take about three years to finish. The health department facilities in Niles and Three Oaks will stay where they are to handle people living in those areas.
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