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Medina, county to share design costs for courthouse

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    Patricia A. Walker, president of the Medina County Law Library Resources Board and Law Library Association, says the shared courthouse project hasn’t provided enough room for the law library.

    BOB FINNAN / GAZETTE

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MEDINA — County commissioners approved an agreement to share the costs of professional design, planning and construction management services for the construction and management of a shared courthouse between the city and county.

The county will pay 75 percent of the $532,000 design costs, and the city will pay the remaining 25 percent, according to the agreement approved Tuesday.

The cost of the entire project has been capped at $38 million. Once the design is approved by the county and the city, “additional costs will be allocated based on the square footage in the building,” County Administrator Scott Miller said.

Either side can opt out of the project for any reason with no penalty.

The project will use an at-risk construction manager.

“The (City Council) Finance Committee unanimously passed it last night, and it will go onto Council June 24,” Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell said. “We’re eager to work with the county.”

The courthouse will accommodate the various divisions of the Medina County Commons Pleas Court and the Medina Municipal Court.

However, all of the divisions are not happy with preliminary plans.

Two of them voiced concerns Tuesday — Medina County Domestic Relations Court, and the Medina County Law Library Resources Board and Law Library Association. Both want to have some say in the plans moving forward and both say they have been ignored thus far.

Attorney Patricia A. Walker, president of the Law Library Resources Board and Law Library Association, said she was at the commissioners’ meeting to talk about the functions of the law library. It’s in the basement of the courthouse.

Walker said the law library statutorily has a county function to provide legal resources to public officials, public defenders, prosecutors and lawyers. It also is open to the public. She said there also are hundreds of law books and other legal resources, not all of which are available online.

It also has five computer terminals, as well as 24/7 access for lawyers.

It has 2,200 square feet in the basement of the courthouse. She said she was told by the architect that new plans for the law library call for a 600-square-foot space in the new building, which Walker said is not sufficient.

“I wanted to make sure that the law library has the opportunity to discuss this with the appropriate people,” Walker said. “Hopefully, we will have input.”

Commissioner Colleen Swedyk said the plan of the courthouse has not even begun.

“All departments will be given the opportunity to state their needs,” she said. “We will consider your needs moving forward.”

Commissioner Bill Hutson agreed.

“As we move forward, the architect will engage with all of the stakeholders about needs,” he said. “It will come.”

Daniel Maynard, court administrator and bailiff for Domestic Relations Court Judge Mary Kovack, has many of the same concerns.

“The fact is, we’ve already paid for a feasibility study that it was my understanding that the square footage could fit with the space available on the Square,” he said. “The law library isn’t happy with its space that it would be allocated in this new plan.

“The space allocated to the Domestic Relations Court falls far short for our current functioning, much less functioning for the future. We’re charging ahead with a half a million dollars for an architect, we should still be at the feasibility stage.”

He said the square footage requirements have never been established for the Domestic Relations Court.

“I’m not entirely sure why we’re moving forward when we don’t know what the users need just yet,” Maynard said.

The Domestic Relations Court consists of 40 percent of the Common Pleas Court’s caseload. It has six dockets running daily.

In the new plans, Maynard said it has four hearing rooms — two fewer than it has now.

Swedyk said the architects will eventually sit down with the Domestic Relations Court and find out its needs.

“Tell them your footprint needs,” she said.

Maynard said he’s been waiting to hear from them for months.

“This project is moving quickly without knowing where it’s moving,” he said.

Maynard said discussions with his court should have happened before $500,000 was spent for design plans.

Commissioner Pat Geissman said architects are trying to accommodate both the city and the county in this project, which will be extremely difficult to do.

“We want you to have a more 21st-century, secure facility,” Swedyk said. “We want you to have everything you need in a better format than you have now. That’s the whole purpose of this exercise.”

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


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