300 East Out Of Business: New Home For Small Claims Court?

The controversial restaurant/bar that former Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer and his good buddy Lacy Johnson broke virtually every imaginable rule to locate in the Julia Carson Government Center four years ago closed its doors on September 1 without fanfare. The current township trustee, Eugene Akers, now wants to relocate the Center Township Small Claims Court into the former space occupied by 300 East from its current location in the basement of the City-County Building. Akers says the move will save the township money, but the small claim's court judge, Michelle Scott Smith, is opposed to the plan. The IBJ's Scott Olson explains:

The Center Township trustee is pushing to move the township's small claims court from the downtown Indianapolis City-County Building to the Julia M. Carson Government Center in what is being promoted as a cost-saving measure.

Trustee Eugene Akers’ plan, which could be approved at a Wednesday township board meeting, is not without controversy, however. The court’s judge, Michelle Smith Scott, is adamantly opposed to the move.

“If the trustee for Center [Township] is able to do this and is allowed to interfere with the court over the objection of the judge,” she said, “I don’t think it sets a good precedent.”
The court is the city’s oldest of nine township small claims courts and is the only one located in the City-County Building, where it’s been housed since the 28-story building opened in 1962.

Scott said the court needs to be in the building because it has the highest volume of cases among Marion County courts—14,000 in 2010. The building’s security is critical, she said, given the large number of litigants coming into her courtroom . . .
According to Olson's story, the township pays the county $16,701.00 to lease the space in the City-County building and it's scheduled to increase next year by 5%. Akers says he can build out the space in the Julia Carson Government building owned by the township, which was formerly occupied by 300 East, for $459,000. Olson says the township reported a cash surplus of $8.5 million at the end of last year. It only makes sense if the township is going to own that big office building that it should house its small claims court there rather than rent basement space in the City-County Building.

As to the demise of 300 East, Olson had this comment from one of the principal owners of the business, Bill Mays:

Local businessman Bill Mays was part of a group that invested $500,000 to launch the restaurant in 2006. Mays said he and local attorney Lacy Johnson could have continued to underwrite restaurant losses, but others couldn’t.

Mays said he continued to financially support the restaurant to give African-Americans and others in the area a place to meet and conduct business.

“The neighborhood was very slow to warm to it,” he said, “and that’s too bad, because it’s their loss.”

Mays said he backs Akers’ plan to move the small claims court into the space, citing an abundance of free parking near the building.