City to explore cost of a court building

Once cost estimates are in, the city can look at its finances and decide what court facilities it can afford.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The city will take a step toward building a new municipal court.
Judges have come up with $500,000 to put toward a project, so the city will explore the costs of a new building, Mayor George M. McKelvey said Monday.
Judge Robert Douglas is optimistic the move is a sign that the court -- and maybe space for police and prosecutors, too -- will be built.
"I think it's going to happen with this commitment," he said.
City council is to vote Wednesday on two items:
UAuthorizing the board of control to hire an architect. The architect will come up with a design and the costs for municipal justice center.
UExpressing council's intent to dedicate future city capital improvement funds toward debt on a new justice center.
The first move will give the city some idea of what a court or justice center will cost, McKelvey said. The second move shows that council agrees any city government funding would come from the capital improvement area of the budget, he said.
Once costs estimates are in, the city can look at its finances, decide what it can afford and make more plans from there, he said.
"It's an ongoing process, a decision making process," McKelvey said.
He made it clear that available money will set the project's limit, he said.
McKelvey said he will leave the scope of the new building to the court and the designer and see what emerges. A project that can be built in stages seems the most feasible since funds are limited, he said.
Judges' efforts
The court's efforts to help fund a new building moved the project ahead after years of talking, he said.
At one time, the court had little money to put toward a project. McKelvey supports the idea of a new court but has emphasized the city can't finance the whole project.
Judges have since increased court costs and tucked the money away in an account dedicated only to a new building.
"We wanted to make a statement of our commitment," Judge Douglas said.
Judges would like to see a building downtown, close to city hall, that brings the court, clerk of courts, police department and prosecutor's office together in one space, Judge Douglas said.
"The city deserves it and will be proud of an edifice representing the criminal justice system," he said.
A court, however, is the first priority with whatever money is available, Judge Douglas said.
He hopes any building could be ready by the end of 2003 or early in 2004.

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