Municipal judge appeals for new courthouse

11/20/2012
BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Municipal Court's presiding judge made official his case Monday for a new building to replace the 37-year-old downtown courthouse that handles mostly traffic violations and minor criminal cases.

Judge Michael Goulding said the lack of adequate space in the building is a "driving concern," but security is also an issue.

"It was built for a different caseload," Judge Goulding told Toledo City Council's Law and Criminal Justice Committee, describing the building as resembling a bus station more than a courthouse.

When the courthouse first opened, it handled about 10,000 civil and criminal cases filed every year. Now, the court has an average of 100,000 cases annually, the judge said.

The courthouse underwent one remodeling project, during the mid-1980s. The city's repair costs for the building this year are expected to reach $300,000.

"We have one working water fountain," Judge Goulding said while listing problems with the building.

There is no furnace, Judge Goulding said. Instead, the building’s heat is supplied by electric baseboards and individual space heaters. Meanwhile, defendants, victims, and the public mingle in crowded hallways outside courtrooms.

Like many things for Toledo, the problem is cost. A 2004 report estimated a new courthouse at $58 million. Judge Goulding said the court has about $4 million saved for such an endeavor, but acknowledged that amount to be a fraction of the needed funding.

Councilman D. Michael Collins, the committee chairman, supports a joint Toledo Municipal Court-Lucas County Jail building.

"We need a new court and the county needs a new jail," Mr. Collins said.

Lucas County Commissioner Carol Contrada, who was not at the committee hearing, said county officials have discussed joining forces with the city for a combined facility.

"The commissioners have already been in discussions with the city of Toledo about being able to have the jail serve the city and county more efficiently, so yes we would consider any joint effort that involves multiple jurisdictions and would be benefit to the taxpayers and community," Ms. Contrada said. "The current jail has inherent inefficiencies... down the road, we will have to consider something else."

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.