ELYRIA — The Elyria Building Department has conducted a special inspection of the old Lorain County Courthouse at the request of the county’s judges, much to the consternation of the county commissioners, who hold ownership of the building.
The Aug. 1 request asked the city to conduct the inspection because of “concern over water, mold, rodent infestation, structural integrity, etc.”
“The judges ordering Tim Lubbe to call the Elyria Building Department is kind of overreaching,” Commissioner Ted Kalo said.
The inspection cost the court $144.20 and had to be paid before the city would undertake the inspection, according to General Division Court Administrator Tim Lubbe, who defended the request.
“Just because the county is a form of government doesn’t mean they are not subject to regulation by other entities,” Lubbe said.
The building, constructed in 1881, currently houses a portion of the county’s Adult Probation Department and the county’s crime lab, both of which are overseen by the judges.
During a heated exchange at Wednesday’s commissioners’ meeting with county Administrator Jim Cordes, Lubbe said he and other court employees have made numerous requests for repairs and cleaning to take place in the old courthouse in recent years, most of which have been ignored.
Cordes complained that Lubbe asked the city for the inspection and didn’t inform the commissioners.
“We don’t have to call you,” Lubbe responded.
Cordes also accused Lubbe of overstepping.
“You don’t have authority over that building,” he said.
According to the city’s undated special inspection report, city workers found ceiling leaks, missing baseboard trim, missing ceiling tiles, leaking toilets, insects, peeling paint, mold under floor covering and other problems.
“The building while old is in relatively decent shape for its age,” the unsigned report said. “Other than some water damage evidence there was no visible sighting of mold or rodents.”
The largest concern, according to the report, was windows with broken latches or torn screens that could allow rodents to get inside.
“Most of the observed items are or could be repaired by experienced maintenance personnel,” the report concluded.
Lubbe said he doesn’t believe the report addresses all of the concerns brought up during the inspection. City building officials did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Lubbe said after the meeting that he was following the orders of the county’s six General Division judges when he contacted the Building Department about issues his bosses felt weren’t being addressed.
“The court is not the county,” he said. “We’re the occupants of that building.”
Cordes said that Lubbe and his employees have sent requests for minor issues, including tack-holes in walls and asked to have the floors in one area of the building cleaned.
He said the county has had to cut its maintenance and housekeeping staff to deal with budget shortfalls and repairs have to be prioritized. The judges, Cordes said, haven’t endured the same level of cuts because they’ve ordered their budget in recent years.
Many of the things Lubbe is asking for probably will never get done, Cordes said.
“Just because Lubbe thinks it’s an issue of concern, doesn’t mean it needs to be addressed,” he said.
Cordes and Lubbe also clashed over Lubbe’s request to have Karen Davis, the county’s special projects director, evaluate whether another portion of the courthouse could be used to house the presentence report investigators who are employed by the Probation Department but work out of the old Columbia Gas building on Third Street.
Commissioner Tom Williams said he believes the problem is that county Maintenance Director Dennis Shawver, who he frequently criticizes, is in over his head and can’t keep up with the workload. Shawver should be keeping on top of the issues and telling county workers the status of their maintenance requests, he said.
Lubbe said part of his problem is that he simply doesn’t know what happens to his requests, which he described as vanishing into a “black hole.”
“I couldn’t care less if they’re not going to clean the floors,” he said. “The issue is if you’re not going to clean the floors, tell us that.”
Commissioner Lori Kokoski said the county doesn’t have the money right now, but she would like to see it restored eventually.
“It looks good on the outside,” she said. “Eventually we’ll get to the inside.”
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or email@example.com.