SWANTON - A roomier courtroom, breathing space for workers, and a place for prospective jurors to sit are goals for the proposed “new” county courthouse here.
Officials hope to get all plans in order and complete the remaking of the Fulton County Eastern District courthouse by the end of 2001.
“Work will begin as soon as the doctor is out of there,” Jack Graf, county commissioner, said.
The building that will be renovated holds the offices of Dr. George Darah. The county bought the building from the physician last summer with an agreement he could remain there another year.
While waiting, plans have been made for moving and removing walls to turn the physician's office and examining rooms into the county's district courthouse.
“Some walls have to come out, some have to be added to make the courtroom and rooms for client and attorney use, a judge's office, and storage space for records,” Mr. Graf said.
“It's a good building, so we don't need a total gut and rebuild,” he said.
The Eastern District court, which handles preliminary hearings before felony cases go to trial at Common Pleas Court in Wauseon, now is in a leased building farther north on Main Street.
Those quarters have long been inadequate, Mr. Graf said. “Facilities are small, there are no real attorney-client rooms, and the so-called lobby is very small.”
Judge Colin McQuade has had a voice in every step of the planning. He has made it plain the courthouse must have room for his administrative staff to work. He, the staff, and commissioners recently met with architects from the Poggemeyer Design Group of Bowling Green.
“We gave them our wish list,” the judge said.
The original plan to use existing office configurations was not sufficient, Judge McQuade said. “The staff needs more work area. They're there five days a week full time so we think we ought to go the full mile to see they have room to work,” he said.
The district court is open three days a week for hearings.
The courtroom will be a big improvement over the present facility. “It will probably be triple the size of the current courtroom,” Judge McQuade said.
“We're a part-time court, so courtroom size is irrelevant some days but when we're in session, it gets cramped in a hurry because everything happens in just three days.
“We don't have many jury trials but when we do, it gets really crowded now.”
Commissioners aim to have blueprints finalized and work ready to begin as soon as Dr. Darah has vacated. “We hope to move the court in by the end of the year,” Mr. Graf said.