The project will include a reception area and a locked door to control visitors.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Construction could begin soon on renovation of the domestic relations court area in the Mahoning County courthouse.
County officials have received bids from two contractors interested in the project, and both appear to be within the budgeted amount, said Mark Huberman, chief magistrate.
The bids are being reviewed by court and county purchasing officials. If they meet all requirements, a bid could be accepted and a contract awarded by county commissioners within two weeks.
"It looks like the project is going forward," Huberman said. "This is long overdue."
The project will be paid for with a $26,000 grant from the Ohio Supreme Court that must be used for security. The plan is to install a reception area from which people could be directed to the courtroom or a waiting area. Access to the court offices, and especially to Judge Beth A. Smith's chambers, will be restricted.
The situation: With the current configuration, the offices and judge's chambers are easily accessible from the fourth-floor hallway.
"It's like Grand Central Station around here sometimes," Huberman said. "People just walk right in anytime."
For security reasons, access will be controlled by installing a locked door at the hallway that will have to be buzzed open for entry. The emotional nature of cases in the court make such precautions necessary, Huberman said.
Just this week, two mothers-in-law got into a fracas in the courtroom and had to be separated by deputies, he said.
Timing: Given the pressure government employees are already under because of terrorist attacks and the threat of anthrax exposure, the additional precautions will come at a good time, Huberman said.
It's the second time county officials tried to find a contractor for the project. Only one contractor submitted a bid the first time, and it was too high.