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Medina, county debate probation department move

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Medina County officials were hoping for a quick, decisive answer Monday on moving the Adult Probation Department. Medina City Council wanted time to consider the proposal.

Their discussions also dredged up old business.

When the city and the county built the parking deck behind the Medina County Courthouse in 2008, they agreed to a contract that all courts, departments and operations already in place must remain there.

Now the county wants to move the Adult Probation Department from the basement of the Medina County Courthouse to nearby Courthouse Commons, 60 Public Square.

County Administrator Scott Miller told Council’s Finance Committee members Monday night he’s already drafted a five-year lease agreement, under review by the county prosecutor’s office, to move into the building’s third floor.

To make that happen, Miller requested an addendum to the contract with the city that would authorize moving the probation operation to Courthouse Commons on the corner of Washington and Broadway streets on the southeast corner of Public Square.

In a perfect world, Miller said, the move would occur in February or March.

“Time is of the essence,” he said.

Miller said the Adult Probation Department has run out of room.

“The working conditions are abysmal,” he said. “We have probation officers sharing offices. There are also safety issues. There are compliance issues with confidentiality. We need to find a different location.”

Chief Probation Officer Veronica Perry, who attended the meeting with Miller and new county Commissioner Bill Hutson, appealed to Council members for a new home for the department.

“There are a lot of high-risk offenders,” she said. “It’s potentially violent down there. We need to get out of there.”

Miller said Courthouse Commons is an “ideal location.” It offers about 4,200 square feet and 17 offices. The current location is cramped and offers 12 offices.

Purchasing the Courthouse Commons building also is a possibility at a price of $1.6 million, Miller said.

City Council members recalled spending $3.5 million for the parking deck more than eight years ago.

“We were kind of forced into the agreement with the parking facility or (the courthouse) would move off-site,” Council President John Coyne said. “That still lingers with us.”

Ward 2 Councilman Dennie Simpson said he thought the county “held our feet to the fire.”

Courthouse expansion

For several years, the county has been discussing expanding the courthouse. If that occurs, the county might be open to including Medina’s Municipal Court operations in its plans, officials said.

Miller said there’s no timetable for a courthouse expansion.

“It all depends on revenues,” he said. “Back in 2007, (the commissioners’) general fund budget was right around

$38.3 (million). In 2016, were at $38 million in revenues. Next year, we’re going to be greater than we were in 2007 — for the first time in 10 years.

“We’re moving in that direction. A lot of it is going to depend on what happens with our sales tax in the coming year. Our sales tax (revenue) was flat in the middle of 2016. If our sales tax (revenues) increase significantly and we get the property taxes for the NEXUS (gas) pipeline … if certain things fall into place, we should be able to move forward with the courthouse (expansion) at some point in the next five years.”

Coyne said the developments involving the Adult Probation Department and the talks about the Medina Municipal Court are coming at him quickly. He said he wanted time to think about the proposal.

Council has been exploring ways to expand municipal court, 35 N. Elmwood Ave., for a number of years. He said a jointly-operated facility would be beneficial and cost-effective to the city and the county.

“I want more comfort and not just saying, ‘We’ll talk about it,’ ” Coyne said. “I want a firm, ‘I will do a court with you.’ ”

Miller said it would cost about $23 million to expand the county courthouse. He’s not sure what it would cost to include the municipal court in any project.

Coyne said he wants to schedule a meeting with county commissioners to discuss the issues. Hutson said he wants that to happen, too.

“It makes a lot of sense to have courthouses combined,” he said. “It makes sense to have the security combined. There are a lot of efficiencies that can be realized. That’s probably a longer-term discussion and a much larger commitment.”

City Law Director Greg Huber said he believes the city was pushed in the parking deck issue in 2008.

“Is the county going to give us an amendment that says we will build a municipal court with you as part of our courthouse expansion?” Huber asked. “If it’s definite, that’s one thing. If it’s not definite, and it’s something to the effect of, ‘We’ll talk about it,’ it will be less received.”

Miller said right now the addendum is strictly to give the county permission to move the Adult Probation Department to 60 Public Square. It doesn’t address the municipal court.

At-Large Councilman Bill Lamb asked if the county has the funds to expand the county courthouse.

Miller said it doesn’t.

“We’re just now hitting the revenue numbers of 2007,” Miller said. “It’s taken us 10 years to get to those numbers. We’ve cut expenses. We’ve cut costs.”

Lamb asked about the commissioners’ budget increasing by 21 percent in the last 10 years. Miller said that wasn’t true.

“I’d have to check the numbers, but I don’t believe they have,” Miller said.

Lamb said the city was being put in the position of being asked to make a quick decision on the Adult Probation Department when the county hasn’t been able to deal with its budget in an efficient way.

“I take exception to that,” Miller said. “We’ve run a very, very tight ship.”

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.



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