Preliminary design drawings for a new county building to house probate/juvenile court were presented to the Hancock County commissioners and other county officials Tuesday.

The plans, presented by Garmann Miller and Associates, architects/engineers, Minster, included no cost estimate but the potential price tag worried one commissioner and prompted the firm to promise to bring back new plans.

Bruce Miller, principal in the firm, outlined plans for a two-story, more than 28,000 square-foot structure to be built either adjacent to the county courthouse, where a small parking lot and the current probate/juvenile court building are located, or a nearby county parking lot adjacent to the post office.

The building would include the probate/juvenile court, the domestic relations court now located in the lower level of the county courthouse and sufficient office, hearing and meeting rooms to serve the county for decades.

The design came from discussions with department personnel which will utilize the space.

But near the end of the nearly 90-minute presentation, Commissioner Mark Gazarek asked if there was an estimate for the proposed building. Miller said that would have to be developed after county officials reviewed the initial plan and provided feedback.

While there were several suggestions on interior changes, overall the plan was acceptable to the group.

However, Gazarek said voters were told previously the county wanted to spend $4 million to $5 million on a new court building.

The proposed building would be more in the $10-$11 million range, he said.

“We cannot afford an $11 million building and expand the jail, too,” Gazarek said.

The existing court building has about 8,000 square feet and Gazarek said previous discussions indicated a new building was expected to have 11,000 square feet.

Judge Kristen Johnson, of probate/juvenile court, said if the building size is restricted to 11,000 square feet “why do the project at all? Why spend $4 million for (an additional) 3,000 square feet?”

Miller said the cost for a court building is about $300-$350 per square foot.

While domestic relations court could remain in the county courthouse and several conference rooms be removed, Johnson said it wouldn’t be enough to bring the project down to the lower amount.

“We’ll get there,” Miller said about a plan which will satisfy county personnel.

The company will take about six to eight weeks to develop new plans and a three-dimensional model. A cost estimate will be included in the updated plans, too.

In the meantime, commissioners will discuss the financial side of the project and discuss with others what the county can afford.

Separately, the commissioners approved DGL Consulting Engineers, Maumee, for $156,306 to develop plans for bids to improve both ends of the Martin Luther King Jr. Way overpass to allow emergency traffic access during flood conditions.

Separately, the commissioners approved a contract with Zimmerman Paint Contractors, Fremont, for the annual county/township pavement marking contract. Cost will be about $47,875, with the county share about $45,175.

Maurer: 419-427-8420
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