No sales tax or county general fund money will be used to pay for the new courthouse.
By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- Columbiana County Municipal Court judges are considering seeking a federal loan to help pay for constructing a nearly $3 million courthouse.
County commissioners agreed Wednesday to authorize the judges to file a loan application with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Should the Department of Agriculture agree to provide a low-interest loan to the county, the municipal court would return to commissioners to get final approval to enter into the obligation.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture loan is attractive because its rate would be lower than the rate charged by the private market, municipal court Judges Mark Frost and Robert Roberts explained.
Interest on such a loan would be about 5 percent.
The judges assured commissioners that the loan would be repaid with money from a court fund fueled by a $10 fee attached to court costs for criminal and traffic offenses.
"We will not put any sales tax money into this project," Judge Frost said.
The court fund, started in mid-1999, now has a balance of about $380,000, part of which will go toward buying land on which to build the courthouse.
Future fee revenue would pay off the courthouse construction loan.
The judges want to start construction sometime in 2003.
The new building is expected to measure about 20,000 square feet, feature ample parking and incorporate updated security features.
The judges said they want to construct a courthouse that will be solid enough to last decades, but one that will not contain any frills.
Judges Roberts and Frost said they've narrowed their courthouse site selection to five locations.
Two of them are within Lisbon village limits. The others are near the village in Center Township.
Sites being considered aren't being divulged by the judges.
Plans to build a new courthouse are part of the county's conversion in January to a municipal court system, which replaced its area court system.
The new system is intended to save money by eventually operating from a central location instead of the three courts now used in Lisbon, Salem and East Palestine.
A centralized municipal courthouse would mean the court no longer would have to pay rent for the three courtrooms now used. It also could reduce the municipal court's staff size.