If “business” in Findlay Municipal Court was declining, a proposal to expand the court in the Municipal Building would be a tough sell. But filings are on the uptick again, so more space for the court is timely.
The proposal calls for relocating the Findlay police administrative offices, the only other tenant on the building’s second floor, to allow a third courtroom and other office space for the court’s staff, which now numbers about 20.
The court needs some breathing room.
When the Municipal Building was built 30 years ago, there was one municipal court judge and the caseload was a fraction of what it is today. A second judge was added in 1993, but two part-time magistrates are now needed to keep up with the docket.
Cases have increased by nearly 50 percent from 2011 to 2013, and Municipal Court Judges Robert Fry and Jonathan Starn want to hire a magistrate to help manage the docket. The new courtroom would be for the magistrate.
While the primary goal is to provide more room for the court to operate, security is also an issue. The hallways and meeting rooms can get congested on days when multiple hearings or trials are scheduled, and police sometimes get called to keep the peace.
There is much underutilized space in the police administrative office area, including an oversized reception area. Moving the chief, captain and administrative secretary downstairs, where the bulk of police operations is located, makes sense.
That will leave the dispatch center as the only police function on the second floor, but that’s a good location considering the city’s tendency to flood.
On the first floor, old jail cells and a hallway would be turned into an office where officers can complete reports, and used as a holding facility for fresh arrests.
Meanwhile, officers would still be close for problems in the courtrooms or offices.
The only downside, if there is one, may be moving the police records room from the first floor to the third. The current location is more convenient for those paying parking tickets or picking up a copy of a police report.
Yet, there’s much more to like than dislike, and the price is right. The renovations could cost $350,000, but the bill would be paid from fees already collected by municipal court.
City Council will hear all the details next week, but, from what we’ve heard, there may not be much to object to.
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