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Local expert says shared courthouse plans 'out of touch with reality'

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    An artist's rendering shows the design concept prepared regarding the courthouse project. The images represent a possibility for the project, but the final design is subject to change.

    PHOTO PROVIDED

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    Local attorney Stanley Scheetz calls plans for the new shared courthouse out of touch with reality.

    BOB FINNAN / GAZETTE

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    Commissioner Bill Hutson, who is spearheading plans for the new shared courthouse, said if the city of Medina is not willing to pay its fair share of the project, the county will move on without it.

    BOB FINNAN / GAZETTE

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MEDINA — Local attorney Stanley Scheetz called preliminary plans for a courthouse that would bring municipal and county courts under the same roof “disturbing” and “out of touch with reality.”

Scheetz spoke against the project Tuesday in the public comment section of the commissioners’ meeting.

Scheetz, who described himself as an attorney, developer, entrepreneur, hotelier and major taxpayer, said he is upset with the amount of money the project might cost, the possibility of razing two buildings and the size of the facility.

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.

Preliminary plans also could include taking down the courthouse built in 1969 and the prosecutor’s office.

“The grand plans for the new courthouse is disturbing to me and demonstrates to me that some of our county officials are out of touch with reality for the actual needs and priorities for our county and its constituents,” Scheetz said.

He said the original plans were to add on 30,000 to 40,000 square feet to the back end of the existing courthouse. The plans have grown to possibly 50,000 square feet for a shared space, 25,000 square feet for the municipal court and 77,000 square feet for the county court.

This means a hefty price tag with no clear source of funding, he said.

For now, the city intends to contribute $8 million to the entire project, which doesn’t sit well with many of the county’s key players.

“Even though this plan looks good on paper as far as the city and county sharing space, it is not good for the county as a deal with the current cap in place by the city with $8 million in construction costs,” Scheetz said.

According to his figures, the county would use between 60 percent and 65 percent of the facility, which would equate to $27 million to $29 million of the $45 million proposed cost. Scheetz said the city would use 30 percent to 35 percent of the facility, which he figures would equate to $16 million by the city.

“(That’s) not $8 million,” he said. “The figures don’t make sense to me unless there is a major adjustment to the contributions.”

Commissioner Bill Hutson, chair of the Medina County Facilities Task Force, said there might have to be some adjustments by the city.

He said some negotiations need to be done for space allocations and cost sharing.

“Quite frankly, if the city of Medina isn’t willing to pay its fair share, then my opinion is we go ahead with our project and they do their project whenever and wherever they can,” Hutson said.

Originally, the city was going to build a new Medina Municipal Court next to the parking deck that is proposed to be built next to City Hall on North Elmwood Avenue.

Commissioner Pat Geissman said no negotiations should be done with the city.

“I’m not one who says, ‘Let’s negotiate this,’ ” she said. “It’s going to be on our terms. If they don’t accept our terms, we will go on our own. I hope these two (other commissioners) support that. If they can’t accept our terms, then they can be on their own.”

Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell, who was not at the meeting, sits on the Facilities Task Force.

“The city has a limit on what we plan to spend on our portion,” he said Tuesday. “We are concerned that although the building size may fit on their land, it may not be affordable or necessary to build as large as currently proposed, both from the city’s perspective and the county’s. We are taxpayers, too. We want the new building to be safe, efficient and effective.

“I felt we were making good progress on the discussions and we have another meeting with city and county set for Monday to continue to work together. Both Commissioners (Colleen) Swedyk and Hutson have been very willing to discuss our concerns and needs. If we come to an impasse and both of us have to build separate facilities, we will lose the efficiencies of shared space, shared security, shared parking and a common location that benefits those using the courts. It is my hope and prayer that we may still do what is best for the city and county (in) a combined court facility.”

No one has discussed publicly how the county would fund a new courthouse.

A county’s sales tax levy was defeated in May 2018 for criminal and justice services.

“No one has proposed any type of levy, whether it sales tax or property tax for this project,” Swedyk said.

“As far as asking people for additional funds, it has never been discussed.”

Hutson said discussions of the shared courthouse have been to determine whether the Common Pleas Court and Municipal Court can fit in a joint facility on the site, a high-level estimate for the space that is required and how much it would cost.

He said the current courthouses are “dysfunctional, obsolete and the cost to run them are astronomical.”

Once a shared courthouse is built — if it’s built — Hutson said it will be for the long haul.

“This is a long-term deal,” he said. “It’s not 10 years. It’s 50 years or 100 years for the useful life of this facility.”

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


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