Plans moving ahead for juvenile/probate court renovations

Plans are moving ahead for extensive renovations to the Hancock County Juvenile/Probate Court building in Dorney Plaza to improve security and court operations.

The county commissioners, Hancock County Juvenile/Probate Judge Kristen Johnson and court Administrator Shawn Carpenter met with Todd Jenkins and Dan Grimes, both with Peterman Associates Inc., of Findlay, the firm which designed the renovations.

Voters defeated a November ballot issue for a quarter-percent, 20-year sales tax to fund construction of a county office building, expansion and staffing of the county jail, and various other capital improvements. If voters had approved the tax, the existing juvenile/probate building would have likely been demolished.

Earlier this year, the commissioners sought bids for extensive upgrades to the juvenile/probate building, including an elevator, a security entrance, window replacement, removal and installation of doors, and concrete repairs. However, the one bid received last February was over the $900,000 estimate by more than the 10 percent allowed by the state.

Since then, the commissioners have contracted with Spieker Co., of Perrysburg, for about $45,000 for structural upgrades, opening a back stairway which was previously closed, and opening a back entrance onto Cory Street.

Commissioner Tim Bechtol, an architect who previously worked for Peterman, said a cost estimate on renovations to the second floor, installation of an elevator, and front lobby security renovation/installation will be revised.

Hancock County sheriff’s deputies are now providing security at the entrance, using handheld scanners. The elevator may be an alternate bid, so the commissioners can decide whether to include it now or wait until later for installation.

The second floor, which had been used for records storage, has been nearly cleared. The previous plans included offices, a conference room, computer lab, two waiting areas and bathrooms there.

Johnson said after today’s meeting that second-floor renovations will be included in the project because the additional space is still needed for the courts.

Court operations and personnel would be moved into other county space while the renovations were being done to allow contractors access to the entire building.

The more than 150-year-old building was constructed as a church and then housed Findlay Publishing Co. operations for years. The building was home to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office at one time, too.

No time frame was mentioned today for completion of the plans or when bids will be sought, but Cindy Land, assistant county prosecutor, said “time is of the essence because of security concerns.”

The project would be paid for with money from the Hancock County Clerk of Courts fund, which would be transferred into the general fund, Commissioner President Mark Gazarek said after the meeting.

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