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$6.5M sought for design of new federal courthouse

WASHINGTON - Ohio's two Republican senators, George Voinovich and Mike DeWine, asked the White House yesterday to include $6.5 million for site preparation and design of a new Toledo federal courthouse in President Bush's budget proposal for 2004.

Congress authorized the Toledo project last year, but no funding was provided. At that time, $5.9 million was requested. However, the project has gotten more expensive. Construction would cost at least $46 million if Congress appropriates the money and the project begins about two years after.

In a joint letter, the two senators said that the current U.S. Courthouse and Customhouse, at 1716 Spielbusch Ave. downtown, is 70 years old “and has never had any major repairs or renovations. The antiquated systems in the building are beyond upgrading and the structure itself cannot be expanded to accommodate three more judges expected over the next 10 years.''

The two lawmakers also said that the building has no normal security features. “The U.S. Marshal Service has given it an extremely low security score of 4 points out of 100 because of the very serious security deficiencies in this facility.''

The U.S. Judicial Conference works with the General Services Administration to recommend new projects and buildings that need renovation. GSA already has acquired a 7.45-acre site for the new federal courthouse from the city of Toledo on Cherry Street off the downtown Civic Center Mall near the current federal courthouse.

Despite the urging of both of Ohio's senators and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), the building has only a 50-50 chance of getting the go-ahead from the White House in the next budget, sources said.

The White House has requests of $550 million for construction of courthouses higher on the priority list than Toledo's. Los Angeles alone seeks a courthouse that would cost $428 million.

Because of higher defense spending, a possible war, and a growing deficit, the White House is reluctant to take on new projects, though chances for a new federal courthouse in Toledo could increase in the 2005 budget proposal.

Mr. Bush's fiscal year 2004 budget proposal will be released early next year.

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