Plans are moving ahead for nearly $1 million in renovations to the Hancock County juvenile/probate court building in Dorney Plaza to improve security and court operations.

Hancock County commissioners met Thursday morning with personnel from Peterman Associates, the Findlay architecture/engineering firm which previously prepared plans for the renovations, and agreed to have the company upgrade the plans. The county will pay $37,980 for the work.

The commissioners had placed a sales tax request before voters in November that would have allowed the county to demolish the building. But the quarter-percent, 20-year sales tax to fund construction of a county office building, expand and staff the county jail, and various other capital improvements was soundly defeated by voters.

On Thursday, the county commissioners, Hancock County Juvenile/Probate Judge Kristen Johnson and court Administrator Shawn Carpenter met with Todd Jenkins and Dan Grimes, both with Peterman. Peterman representatives will meet with court personnel and commissioner representatives to further discuss the plans next week.

Last year, the commissioners sought bids for extensive upgrades to the juvenile/probate building, including an elevator, a security entrance, window replacement, removal and installation of doors, and concrete repairs. However, the one bid received last February was over the $900,000 estimate by more than the 10 percent allowed by the state.

Since then, the commissioners contracted with Spieker Co. of Perrysburg for about $45,000 for structural upgrades, opening a back stairway which was previously closed, and opening a back entrance onto Cory Street.

With the structural upgrade completed, the commissioners hope the project can be done for less than $1 million.

Commissioner Tim Bechtol, an architect who previously worked for Peterman, has said a cost estimate on renovations to the second floor, installation of an elevator, and front lobby security renovation/installation will be revised.

The second floor, which had been used for records storage and has been nearly cleared, is still needed for the courts. The previous plans included offices, a conference room, computer lab, two waiting areas and bathrooms there.

Hancock County sheriff’s deputies are now providing security at the entrance, using hand-held scanners.

The elevator may be an alternate bid, so the commissioners can decide whether to include it now or to wait for installation.

Asbestos has been found in a portion of the building and would have to be removed before renovations start.

The building would be vacated by court staff during renovations and the commissioners are seeking to lease space for the interim.

The commissioners hope to have the work done by the end of this year. The project would be paid for with money from a Hancock County Clerk of Courts fund, Commissioner Mark Gazarek has said.

The building, which is over 150 years old, was constructed as a church and then housed Findlay Publishing Co. operations for years. The building was home to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office at one time, too.

Maurer: 419-427-8420
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