July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

New Medina courthouse to be built as addition to city hall

MEDINA — Medina City Council’s finance committee approved a plan Monday to begin designing and constructing a new courthouse.

The proposed 25,000- to 30,000-square-foot building would adjoin the City Hall complex on the southwest side, behind the police station, filling in part of what now is a parking lot.

Officials say the Municipal Courthouse across North Elmwood Avenue from City Hall doesn’t provide the space that Judge Dale Chase’s staff needs.

Building onto City Hall saves the cost of buying property. It also means Chase will not have to move from the existing courthouse during a lengthy and costly renovation or expansion of that building.

“We don’t have to pay for new property or to relocate the judge, and we get to improve on the efficiencies of the courthouse and city government facilities,” said at-large Councilman Bill Lamb. “There’s nothing not to love here.”

The plan also could upgrade the entire complex’s heating and cooling systems, Lamb said.

Council President John Coyne said the option to rebuild or expand the courthouse would have meant renting space for the judge to avoid safety and noise concerns during construction.

Instead, Council members said they expect the court’s capital improvement fund to help pay for the new courthouse.

Coyne said the court has $3.5 million to $4 million in that account and a borrowing capacity of about $3 million, meaning Chase could contribute up to $7 million toward the project.

What the new building will not have is a second courtroom.

“If we built that, it wouldn’t be up to our discretion whether it would be filled,” Coyne said. “It would be within Judge Chase’s rights to request a second judge, and the Ohio Supreme Court could say that court has to be filled. The current Council does not believe we can afford that.”

Coyne said a new judge with salary and staff could cost the city another $250,000 to $300,000.

The council president said that while the need for an extra judge may not be needed now, Council recognizes that the court’s caseload could increase in the future. For that reason, the new building will be adaptable, so that a new courtroom could be built without disrupting the daily operations of the building’s staff.

And the old courthouse can be used to accommodate the city, county or private business, he said.

Coyne said city officials plan to seek bids from design-and-build contractors soon.

He expects that process to take the city into early 2015, and that a contractor could break ground next summer.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.