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MAHONING COUNTY Officials say bids for security at court may finally be OK



Published: Sat, September 14, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Court staff will use an electronic buzzer to open the hallway door for visitors.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County officials kept pitching a plan to improve security at domestic relations court until they finally got bids that were in the ballpark.

It took them three tries.

"Looks like three strikes and you're in," said Mark Huberman, chief magistrate. "It's been a long struggle."

The plan is to install a reception area from which people will be directed to the courtroom or a waiting area. Access to court offices, and especially to Judge Beth A. Smith's chambers, will be restricted.

A locked door will be installed at the hallway entrance to the fourth-floor court offices, Huberman said. The door will have to be buzzed open for entry.

Court officials have tried for two years to get the project going. It's being funded with a $26,000 grant from the Ohio Supreme Court that must be used for court security.

It was derailed at first because county commissioners complained that Judge Smith did not include them in the planning process. They believed all courthouse renovations should be approved by a committee of officeholders, which was not done.

How bidding went

Once that flap was resolved, the project moved ahead to the bidding process, which is required under state law. Only one bid was received and it was rejected for being too high.

County officials bid the project again, but had to scrap those bids because of a mistake in the project specifications that had been given to bidders.

A third round of bids was sought recently, and Huberman said it appears everything went well this time. He said commissioners could award a contract at their meeting Thursday.

Huberman said the current configuration leaves court offices and the judge's chambers easily accessible to anyone who wanders in from the hallway.

That's a hazard because of the emotionally volatile nature of cases that are handled there, he said.

"This court is often referred to as a court of human emotion," he said, noting there are frequently altercations among parties involved in disputed cases there. "This project really needs to happen."




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