By Dustin Ensinger
As expected, the Delaware County commissioners on Monday took the first step toward implementing the county’s facilities plan.
The commissioners unanimously approved two resolutions – one to accept the recommendations of the Facilities Need Assessment Committee and another seeking qualification of an architectural firm to design a new 62,295-square-foot facility likely to house the Delaware County Common Pleas Court, the Delaware County Clerk of Court’s office, the Delaware County Prosecutor’s office, Adult Court Services and Adult Probation Authority.
“Today’s vote is the first official step in upgrading our justice service,” said Delaware County Commissioner Gary Merrell. “With the addition of another judge in two to three years and our limited facilities, this will be an important project for our county.”
The project is slated to cost $21.6 million.
The building is proposed for the site of the former Elks Lodge at 110 N. Sandusky St. The City of Delaware recently voted to allow the county to demolish the historic structure.
The plans, drafted by GBBN Architects, also calls for the addition of a 220-space parking deck in the rear of the building.
The new building is just one portion of the $52.6 million facilities plan.
Delaware County’s historic courthouse is also set for a major upgrade, including $8.6 million in renovations and $6.7 million in additions. The renovations and additions will bring the total size of the building to 56,300-square-feet. It will house the juvenile and probate courts, along with child support services.
The plans, which Merrell called a “schematic template,” also call for the construction of a three-story, 125-space parking deck on Franklin Street, $2.1 million in renovations to the Hayes Building and a $2.5 million storage facility at the Delaware County Jail.
The additional court space will be needed to make room for a new judicial position, which the Ohio Supreme Court recently approved and the Ohio Legislature is expected to take up this fall.
The court recommended that the county “create a standalone domestic relations division consisting of one judgeship which would have exclusive jurisdiction over all divorce, dissolution or marriage, legal separation, and annulment cases that come before the court.”
The new domestic relations division would also handle paternity, custody, visitation and child support cases.
The court’s recommendation is based on a 2012 county request to add two judicial positions because of rising case loads.
From 2006 to 2010, Common Pleas Court new case filings increased by 28 percent. New case filing jumped 11.2 percent in the Juvenile Division over the same period of time.
The study by GBBN Architects found that the current Common Pleas Court facility is “cramped, unsafe and inefficient, combining jurors, witnesses and prisoners.”
Dustin Ensinger can be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @EnsingerDG.