BOWLING GREEN - Just when you thought it was safe to take a stroll around the Wood County Courthouse, the backhoes and dump trucks are back.
Work got under way this month on a $2.2 million atrium that county commissioners promise will be the last construction project for a while.
The stone exteriors of the courthouse and the old county jail were restored, and the tile roofs were replaced during a two-year project that was completed just recently.
“I've been up here since 1995, and I think I've had a hard hat in my office ever since,” Commissioner James Carter said.
In the last four years, the county has spent more than $7 million on building improvements at the downtown courthouse, the old county jail, and the five-story county office building - improvements they hope will boost the structures' longevity.
With the atrium project, they also intend to improve security at the complex.
The heated and air-conditioned enclosure will be built with a combination of glass, concrete, and stone that matches the 1890s courthouse. It will be topped off with Spanish tile, and glass skylights will provide views of the surrounding buildings.
Though commissioners had planned to allow visitors and employees to enter the complex from one south-side main entrance, where they would pass through a security checkpoint, the commissioners changed their minds. Elected officials and the public had complained that the plan was excessive.
“As it's being built now, we won't change any entrances,” County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said. “However, at any point in the future, say for a particular trial, if we need to go down to a single entrance into the complex, we'll be able to do it.”
Mr. Carter said the atrium was designed to meet various security needs.
“In a moment's notice, you could actually close all the doors except for the main entrance and run everyone through a metal detector or whatever the courts want, and if, later on, the conditions warrant it, those doors can be permanently closed,” Mr. Carter said.
“We just felt we had to give future commissioners options and keep the public from being in an uproar about access to the courthouse.”
Common Pleas Judge Alan Mayberry said he thinks the current plan does just that.
“I think it's a good compromise and at least if at some point they decide they need to ratchet up security it would be easy enough to do,” Judge Mayberry said.
Mosser Construction of Toledo is working on the project, which is expected to be completed in December.
No streets will be closed, but visitors should watch for the yellow caution tape and the fenced-off areas in the plaza.
For Judge Mayberry, whose staff is on the fourth floor of the county office building, the atrium will be a welcome Christmas present.
“It will be nice for the staff too that has to run to the clerk's office all winter long,” he said. “That will be a side benefit - they won't have to bundle up in coats and snow shoes to go file papers.”
Artist renderings of the atrium may be viewed on the county's Web site.