By JIM MAURER
STAFF WRITER

Everyone agrees Hancock County Probate/Juvenile Court needs an upgrade for employee safety and security. But the increasing cost of those improvements could be what holds up the project.

The project’s estimate rose Thursday when the Hancock County commissioners met with Probate/Juvenile Court Judge Kristen Johnson, Tim Bechtol, architect with Peterman Associates, and Shawn Carpenter, court administrator, for an update on the project plans.

When discussions began about a year ago, the estimate was about $500,000. At a walk-through of the building last week, the estimate had increased to $620,000.

At Thursday’s session, the amount rose again to $896,000, and it may continue to grow. The addition of 10 percent for contingency, the purchase of furniture, the installation of fire suppression equipment, and adding an on-site supervisor could increase the estimate to $1.2 million, said Commissioner Brian Robertson.

An alternative to improving the building would be construction of a new building on county-owned land, said Commissioner Phillip Riegle. But he said the county does not have the funds, with current revenues.

“It’s not a decision I’m going to make,” he said. Riegle is an unopposed write-in candidate for county prosecutor and will likely vacate his commissioner’s position before year-end. The county Republican Central Committee will name a successor.

Bechtol hopes to have bid documents ready next month for the commissioners’ consideration.

He said he will submit the documents Monday to the Wood County Building Department, which is responsible for issuing permits and overseeing commercial building construction in Hancock County. It will take one to 1 weeks for the review.

The commissioners indicated they wanted more time to review the information provided Thursday, since it was the first time they had seen it and the cost was higher than previously presented.

Johnson said there have been discussions for a year, and it’s time to improve security and space for the children and families served by the court. She does not want to wait another year, she said.

Among the improvements planned for the existing building will be installing new restrooms on both floors and replacing windows and doors, gutters and downspouts. Other work includes heating/ventilating and air conditioning repairs, and rewiring for data ports on both floors.

There will also be additional security cameras installed on both floors. Second-floor space will be converted into offices, and mechanical equipment will be enclosed to reduce noise. The first floor will be handicap accessible, with courtrooms located there.

The plans meet guidelines established by the Ohio Supreme Court, Johnson said, and the renovations will provide needed court space and growth options for the next 20 years.
Bechtol said the renovations will provide an additional 50 years for the building.

The work will be done to not interfere with court business, Bechtol said.

Maurer: 419-427-8420
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