MAHONING COUNTY Judges want consolidation by end of year
The current lack of space for the court is 'unbelievable,' one judge said.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Mahoning County Common Pleas Court's general division judges will consolidate all of their administrative operations on the courthouse's third floor.
The decision means that, for the first time, the court's three magistrates, assignment office, mediation office and court reporters will all be on the same floor.
The judges -- Maureen A. Cronin, administrative judge, R. Scott Krichbaum, Jack M. Durkin, James C. Evans and Maureen A. Sweeney -- said they would like the renovation and relocation to take place before the end of this year.
The judges will discuss issuing a court order to have the commissioners and the county auditor provide funds to complete the job.
The money for the work will come from the county's capital improvements fund. The cost may be between $150,000 and $200,000, although exact figures will come soon, said Richard Malagisi, facilities management director.
Renovations will be handled by the county's facilities and management workers, Malagisi said, thus cutting down the overall cost.
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning work must be bid because HVAC must be tied into the county's current system. Some of the areas being remodeled had their own self-contained heating and cooling systems, Malagisi explained.
Space occupied by the county prosecutor's office for grand jury sessions and the victims-witness program on the third floor also will be vacated for the court's use.
One plan now is to move the grand jury hearing room and victims-witness to the county administration building behind the courthouse. The prosecutor's office oversees both of them, and his office was moved to the administration building in early 2004.
The grand jury space would be used by Judge Beth A. Smith of domestic relations court for her magistrates, who are in the courthouse basement. The domestic relations court is on the courthouse's fourth floor, and Judge Smith has wanted her magistrates to be closer to her operations.
The courts had put on previous journal entries, some dating to 2002, staking claims to the space, and ordering contiguous space on the third floor, but the work didn't get done because budgetary problems caused a reduction in facilities management personnel.
Judge Cronin said the courts are "so out of space that it's unbelievable."
The consolidation on the third floor will centrally locate the administrative offices, she added.
The assignment office is on the second floor, near the clerk of courts office; the three magistrates' offices are in the courthouse basement, and second and third floors; the court reporters and the mediation office are on the third floor.
The magistrates -- Timothy Welsh, Eugene Fehr and Robert Bannon -- and the court's chief mediator, Atty. Richard Blair, have no rooms to conduct their hearings. They often must use the jury rooms of the trial courts.
Robert W. Rupeka, court administrator, said plans call for the assignment office to use the space now occupied by court reporters.
The court reporters will have new space created for them where the prosecutor's criminal division space used to be.
The magistrates will have offices and a hearing room created for them in that same space, Rupeka added.
Blair will have two mediation rooms -- one where the prosecutor's file room was once housed, and the other now used by Bannon.
Blair's office also will be near the other magistrates' offices.
Malagisi said one mediation room just needed some items moved and the room painted, and that room is nearly complete.
The rest of the work will include putting up walls, building a restroom for the court reporters, opening a walkway area now closed that will provide room for file cabinets, painting and carpeting.
The county's data processing department will oversee the movement and setup of phones, computers and Internet connections.
The space being vacated by the assignment office on the second floor may go back to the clerk of courts office, and it could be used to store some of the filing cabinets that now are placed along second-floor walls, Judge Cronin said.
The judges also will make a decision later what to do with the space being vacated by the 7th District Court of Appeals. The appellate court is moving to its own $3.8 million building on West Federal Street next year.