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Officials: Shared courthouse project still taking shape

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    Medina Municipal Court Judge Gary Werner spoke to the Medina Finance Committee on Monday night about a shared courthouse project on Public Square.

    BOB FINNAN / GAZETTE

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MEDINA — There is a lot of work yet to be done on a Medina County judicial center, a shared courthouse project on Public Square.

However, a few things came to light Monday night during the Finance Committee at City Hall.

City Council members were clear on how much they intend to contribute to the project — $8 million — and nothing more. Half of that figure was from a special projects fund collected by retired Municipal Judge Dale Chase.

Funding the remainder of the project is being worked out.

Among the preliminary cost estimates are $1.2 million for demolition, $570,000 for site improvements, $38 million for construction and $5.1 million for other costs. Relocation costs were not included. Total cost would be about $45 million

There has been criticism of the preliminary designs of the building that will house the Medina County Common Pleas and Medina Municipal courts.

County Commissioner Bill Hutson wanted to reiterate that no firm decisions have been made on the project.

Current Municipal Judge Gary Werner said he would willingly defer on what the outside of the building looked like. He’s more concerned on what the inside looks like.

He said the current Municipal Court at 135 N. Elmwood Ave. has serious safety concerns and much inefficiency. Werner said prisoners, police and court personnel are “all marching up and down the same hallway.”

“They tell us it’s a very unsafe building,” he said.

In the new project, “what matters to me is functionality,” he said.

Werner wants secure entrances that are accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as secure entrances for prisoners.

He said plans on a courthouse have spanned back to 1998.

“This project has been stewing for 20 years,” Werner said.

“The winds are blowing in our direction. The county is ready to do something. This is not about us. It’s about this county 50 years from now.”

The Medina County Courthouse was built in 1840. There were additions in 1973, 1906, 1933 and 1952.

The new courthouse was constructed in 1969 and was connected to the original courthouse.

In a design presentation by the Medina County Facilities Task Force on Feb. 19, some preliminary plans were proposed, including 50,350 square feet for a shared space, 25,917 square feet for the municipal court and 77,297 for the county court.

Werner held up the designs and said, “This is a start.”

There would likely be three floors to the center. The first floor could house adult probation, domestic relations, municipal court clerk and county court clerk.

The second floor would house juvenile probation, juvenile court, magistrate and probate court.

Then, on the upper level would be municipal probation, municipal court and common pleas court.

A detailed schedule will be produced and previewed in the coming months.

At-Large Councilman Bill Lamb said he didn’t like the look of the exterior in the preliminary designs of the building. The county paid $50,000 for the designs, Hutson said.

He was upset that the prosecutor’s office, 93 Public Square, could be torn down in the new project.

“That’s a really significant building for the downtown,” he said.

It was once Gensemer Funeral Home and dates back to the 1872. The prosecutor’s office moved there in 2011.

Lamb called the preliminary designs “bulky” and said it “takes away from the appearance of the courthouse. We have a responsibility to protect what we had.”

Hutson said the next phase in the project is to engage an architect for designs.

“This is just a concept,” Ward 2 Councilman Dennie Simpson said. “These photos are not set in stone.”

Simpson said the task force should seek public input on the project. Lamb said the Community Design Committee, the Archive Commission and the Historical Preservation Society should also be consulted.

Hutson said the preliminary designs are compliant with Ohio Supreme Court guidelines.

He said the longer the city and county drag their feet on the project, the more the price will go up.

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.


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