July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

Medina Council takes step toward a new courthouse

Medina City Council took the first step Tuesday toward building a new municipal courthouse by agreeing to advertise for an architect to help determine if the project is economically feasible.

City officials have wrestled for more than 10 years with the lack of space at the municipal courthouse, across North Elmwood Avenue from City Hall.

Last month, Council’s Finance Committee agreed that it was better to construct a new courthouse rather than to expand the courthouse for several reasons: The city already owns the property and a new building avoids the expense of relocating Municipal Judge Dale Chase and his staff while the old courthouse was being renovated.

A new building also would provide an opportunity to upgrade City Hall’s heating and cooling systems.

But Council members said the project can’t move forward until they know how large a building is needed.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Chase said that a 2002 study by the architectural firm of Horn & King, of Dublin, Ohio, proposed a 36,538-square-foot building that would accommodate a second judge.

Eliminating the second judge would reduce the size of the building to 31,215 square feet, Chase said.

The current courthouse has about 13,000 square feet.

Chase said he was concerned that some city officials were under the mistaken belief that a second judge could be forced on the city if additional space was provided in the new courthouse.

“Regardless of what you build right now for a court — how you plan it, whether you fill it with space for a second judge or whether you built it with plans where you can add space — I can’t make you have a second judge; the Supreme Court cannot make you have a second judge.”

Chase said he has read comments from city officials in newspaper stories stating “Well, we don’t want the judge to have the Supreme Court tell us they’ll be a second judge.”

“Council has to pass a resolution in support of a second judge before I can ask the Supreme Court for a second judge. … Nobody can force you to have a second judge.”

The size of the building is a key factor in determining the cost of the project.

Council President John Coyne said the municipal court has about $7 million available to finance a new courthouse — $3.5 million to $4 million in a special account earmarked for the project and about $3 million that could be borrowed.

Contact David Knox at (330) 721-4065 or dknox@medina-gazette.com.