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Brian Francisco | The Journal Gazette
Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., will close his office in Covington Plaza by the end of his term, which expires Jan. 3.

Lugar preparing to close staff offices in city

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., is preparing to close his Indiana offices, including one in southwest Fort Wayne.

“We are in the process of archiving records and just sort of winding up all of the offices,” said Mark Hayes, state director for Lugar.

No closing dates have been set, Hayes said.

The state’s Republican voters rejected Lugar’s bid for a seventh term by nominating state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in the May 8 primary election. Mourdock faces Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, in the Nov. 6 general election for Lugar’s seat.

Hayes said regional offices in Fort Wayne, Valparaiso and Evansville might shut down as soon as staffers at those sites find jobs elsewhere. The Indianapolis and Washington, D.C., offices will be the last to close. Leases were arranged by the federal General Services Administration and end when Lugar’s term does Jan. 3, Hayes said.

Lugar’s regional workers have handled constituent questions and problems pertaining to federal agencies. New cases are being referred to Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and the appropriate U.S. House members, including Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, in northeast Indiana.

Lugar’s Northeast Indiana Community Service Center opened in 2008 in Covington Plaza along Jefferson Boulevard. He previously had an office at the downtown E. Ross Adair Federal Building.

Local staffer Justin Busch and intern Ethan Manning run the Covington Plaza office. Busch said many of the constituent cases have involved the IRS and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

As he and Manning pack up, “we still get a few walk-ins, folks who want to say goodbye,” Busch said.

He said one such person dropped by to mention she received help from Lugar’s local office in 1982.

The Community Service Center has played host to several public events since 2008, including the collection of food, books, clothing and soap donated for charitable causes; a bloodmobile visit; a Veterans Day celebration; an information session on Social Security and Medicare benefits; and back-to-school programs for children.

Hayes described regional staffers as Lugar’s “eyes and ears on the ground.” Besides Busch, there are 13 staffers in Indianapolis, two in Evansville and one in Valparaiso.

Area constituents needing assistance with federal matters should contact Coats’ office at 426-3151 or Stutzman’s office at 424-3041. Both are downtown in the Federal Building on South Harrison Street. Coats’ hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, and Stutzman’s hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.