Countdown begins to opening of Youngstown's new court facility


By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Visitors to the new municipal courthouse slated to open April 30 in the City Hall Annex immediately will be struck by two things.

First are the panoramic views of downtown and east, down Front Street and south, up Market Street, thanks to the large windows built when it was a post office and federal court in the 1930s

Second are the restrooms.

The old court facility, on the second floor of Youngstown City Hall on West Boardman Street, had no public restrooms, a cramped hallway and cramped courtrooms. It was once compared to the decrepit court system of Ukraine by a former state supreme court justice.

People who had to use the restroom in that building had to go to the basement, the sole public restroom in all of city hall.

The new facility, however, has several restrooms available to the public, as well as a parking garage for the judges and magistrate.

Workers are putting the final touches on the more than $9 million renovation to allow for the municipal court, clerk of courts staff, adult probation, as well as the city health department to be housed there.

For years, two of the court’s former judges, Robert Milich and Robert Douglas, along with current Judge Elizabeth Kobly, had been lobbying the city for a new facility.

In 2009, they submitted a judgment ordering former Mayor Jay Williams to find a new facility. The judges also filed a complaint with the state Supreme Court later in the year.

In 2015, a deal finally was struck between the court and the administration of former Mayor John A. McNally to renovate the annex to accommodate the court.

“I’m looking forward to it, obviously, because we worked for it for 20 years,” Judge Milich said. “That’s probably the most important thing we worked on.”

Judge Milich retired from the court in December.

On a recent tour, Raynor Holmes, security coordinator for city hall and the municipal court, said enhanced security is one of the new features at the new court.

There is an X-ray machine, and new metal detectors, as well as an area where hazardous materials can be examined and disposed of if need be.

There also will be a security office, a security desk in the main hallway of the court, and there are more than 80 cameras, Holmes said.

There is also a room for jurors to assemble when they are called. In the current court, jurors have to meet in city council chambers when they report. There are rooms for attorneys to meet with their clients as well. There is also an area with a cell to hold inmates from the county jail who are scheduled for court appearances.

Holmes also said crews working on the renovation preserved as much of the original building, which was built during the Great Depression, as they could.

They renovated original doors, windows, and woodwork and floors. A glass table was found in the basement of the building, and that is being cleaned and used again as well, Holmes said.

As for the space that is being vacated, police Chief Robin Lees said he hopes to use it for the department’s Family Investigative Services, now at 20 Federal Place. He also hopes, in the future, to have the vice squad move in to the fifth-floor space that once was part of the old city jail and has been used to house prisoners from the county jail who had court appearances.

The vice squad was once in the annex, but it moved to the county misdemeanor jail on Commerce Street when the renovations on the annex began.

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