Planning for court advances

A fund totaling more than $300,000 will help get the project started.
LISBON -- Two recently elected Columbiana County municipal judges say a consultant will be hired in the next few weeks to help with preliminary design of a new courthouse.
The new building, or a remodeled one, will house a county municipal court that begins Jan. 1.
The new structure won't replace the county's historical courthouse, which houses county common pleas court and other county offices.
Judges Mark Frost and Robert Roberts were elected earlier this month to serve as the full-time municipal court judges.
Judges Frost and Roberts serve as part-time judges for the county's area court system, which will be abandoned when the municipal court begins.
Plans for implementing the new system call for a new courthouse.
Advisory panel: To develop ideas for the new courthouse, the judges are working with an advisory committee made up of county bar association members and governmental officials.
Although plans have yet to be finalized, the judges agree that they want the new courthouse to be in Lisbon, which would centralize it and put it close to other county government offices.
Judges Frost and Roberts also say they're leaning toward a new structure instead of remodeling one.
Building would allow key design elements to be incorporated, including storage, prisoner holding area, courthouse security, ample parking, room for two courtrooms and a staff of about 20 people, and accommodations for the disabled.
No cost estimate has been developed yet.
To help pay for the project, the area courts have since mid-1999 been collecting a $10 fee that's attached to court costs for criminal and traffic offenses.
The fees have created a fund tallying about $334,000.
Not enough: But Judge Roberts noted that it's unlikely the fund will be enough to cover the cost of a new structure. If not, money may be borrowed and paid back through the $10 court fee fund, he said.
The judges say they hope to make a decision by early next year on where the new courthouse will be located and to begin finalizing its design.
It may be about two years before the project is complete.
Until then, the municipal court will hear cases in the three locations occupied by the area court system.
Those are in Salem, Lisbon and East Palestine.

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