November 23, 2014


Judge orders commissioners to renovate probation facilities

The Adult Probation Department could be relocated to this building at 374 Broad St., Elyria. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

The Adult Probation Department could be relocated to this building at 374 Broad St., Elyria. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

ELYRIA — Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge issued an ultimatum to the county commissioners Wednesday before storming out of their meeting Wednesday.

Either the commissioners agree to build out the empty fifth floor of the Lorain County Justice Center for the county’s Adult Probation Department or Burge said he will issue a court order requiring them to fund renovations in the dilapidated old Lorain County Courthouse, where the Probation Department is now housed.

In a letter sent to the commissioners later in the day, Burge gave them until May 2 to comply.

Burge wrote that he will work with various city departments to determine what needs to be done to make the old courthouse “sanitary, structurally sound, safe” and secure and how much those repairs will cost.

“When I receive a cost estimate for the foregoing, the sum will be added to the budget request of the general division of the common pleas court,” Burge wrote. “Then, with the complete support of my colleagues, I will order you to pay it.”

There is no estimate of how much fixing the problems at the old courthouse would cost, although county Special Projects Director Karen Davis said that the last time the county looked at the issue, the cost was about $75 per square foot.

The old courthouse has 24,708 square feet, so repairs can be roughly calculated out to nearly $1.9 million, although Commissioner Tom Williams said that kind of money would only be a “Band-Aid” on the problems in the building.

Commissioner Lori Kokoski said after the meeting that she was surprised by Burge’s behavior during a discussion over whether to relocate the Probation Department to the Justice Center or to a county-owned building at 374 Broad St.`

“The way he conducted himself in the hearing room today was surprising … He was like a bully,” Kokoski said. “We need to keep discussing so we can come up with a plan.”

The county’s judges have ordered their budgets for the last several years, a move that the commissioners have complained about but have never challenged in court.

The commissioners all said they doubt Burge has the legal power to order them to make the renovations, and they will likely challenge such an order if one is issued.

“It’s up to us to determine where they’re housed, so I don’t know how he thinks he’s going to court order us,” Kokoski said.

Williams described Burge’s actions Wednesday as those of “a very passionate individual,” adding that he understands the judge’s frustration over the slow progress on the issue of finding appropriate office space for the Probation Department.

The county’s six General Division judges, who oversee the Probation Department, have complained for years about problems at the old courthouse, including break-ins and thefts from the building. They also haven’t been happy that part of the Probation Department is separately housed at the old Columbia Gas building on Third Street.

Building out the unfinished floor of the Justice Center would cost about $2.4 million, according to the judges’ proposal, although the commissioners estimated it would actually run closer to $2.8 million.

Court Administrator Tim Lubbe said that the fifth floor proposal also includes new office space for the court’s foreclosure magistrates. Including the foreclosure work in the fifth floor project would allow the court to use some of its special projects money to help fund the project, he said.

The commissioners’ proposal to renovate the Broad Street location would cost just shy of $1.3 million.

But moving the Probation Department to Broad Street would bring its own set of problems, Burge said.

“We’re going to have 100 thugs at the corner of Broad and Middle (Avenue) every day,” the judge told the commissioners.

Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda and Elyria Police Chief Duane Whitely also said they oppose moving the Probation Department to Broad Street.

Whitely said there were numerous complaints of drug use and other issues when the Lorain County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services had an office in downtown Elyria. He said he used grant money to better police those using that agency’s services and, despite numerous arrests, the problem didn’t really go away until LCADA relocated to East Avenue.

That, coupled with a police crackdown on problem bars in the downtown area, has led to people returning downtown, Whitely said.

“The downtown is cleaned up,” he said. “We need to keep it that way.”

Kokoski and Commissioner Ted Kalo both said that the county was trying to address the judges’ desire for a new location and save taxpayer money by proposing the Broad Street building as a possible solution.

“I haven’t made any decision,” Kalo said. “I just have concerns about spending that kind of money under our current economic conditions.”

He said other county departments are also seeking funding to deal with issues ranging from leaking roofs to new cruisers being sought by county Sheriff Phil Stammitti.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or

  • LookBackTwo

    Yeah, no need to hold those pesky elections to determine spending and/or to elect commissioners any more….we have ‘ole man Burge to dictate spending OUR tax dollars!…here come da judge, here come da judge….

  • MrRespect

    How exactly do you “RENOVATATE” something. Gee, a red line appeared under Renovatate. Wonder what that is?

  • herekitttykaate

    I GUESS Lori would know a bully when she see’s one right. Takes one to know one as that is how she seemed to treat Mr. Williams not so long ago. btw, when the flooring was done there, who got that contract? I was always curious.

    • stillsleepyeyes

      umm ted (I can’t pay my bills) kalo of course…………..

  • Sis Delish

    … and the Government gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger, while the businesses get fewer and fewer and fewer…

    They always have money for pet projects, but when I hear the Old Courthouse has been left in bad shape, that’s not good. Use the “Found Funds” to renovate before you eliminate that center-piece property, duh!

  • GreatRedeemer

    Maybe he is jealous of the digs they got in Cuyahoga
    counties Juvenile Justice center. Walnut desks, $1000 chairs, plasma TV’s …

  • DavePrice

    ” Burge wrote that he will work with various city departments to determine what needs to be done to make the old courthouse “sanitary, structurally sound, safe” and secure and how much those repairs will cost. ” Because having a sanitary workplace, safe from falling bricks and secure from the prisoners they deal with? These are just CRAZY demands?

  • Daniel Sutter

    Judge should be kicked off the bench and be given jail time for abuse of power. Lorain judges have long history of ordering the local government to do whatever they want. Right or wrong cause, it is arrogant abuse.

    • SS

      Maybe you should run as a government official and utilize the system of checks and balances…or maybe it’s not abuse of power, he just wants to see something fixed that has had its feet drug for SO LONG that it has come to the point that it is in ridiculously poor conditions. God forbid. Throw the man in Jail!….This kids, is why we can’t have nice things in Elyria.

      • Daniel Sutter

        A judge writing a court order to get what he wants is abuse. It was abuse to write a court order to the county to support his budget, and this is abuse too.
        They are not gods. If jail is what it takes to pull politicians and judges back to reality, then that should happen.
        Does the judge think he is obama and everybody is his blind sheep?

        • wow

          says a blind sheep himself. give it a rest.

          • Daniel Sutter

            Thats what obama types want is for those that can think to stop, but we can see what camp your in… Try to grow up and use your real name…..

          • wow

            that’s what i thought. hilarious.

          • SS

            Who needs a real name, we’re just a couple sheep voicing our opinions. It would be you sir, who feels the need for recognition, that in itself should prove who the real sheep in the herd is. :) have a swell day.

          • Daniel Sutter

            Don’t need the recondition, but thanks for making me look good. One day when you grow up you won’t be shamed into hiding.

          • SS

            Ill keep that in mind during my transition to adulthood. On a side not, when voicing on how I “made you look good”, I would make sure you don’t misspell your words. All that work and energy I used to make you look good, and you just destroyed it in one foul swoop.

          • Daniel Sutter

            Liberals, always trying to win via spelling and grammar, thanks again.

          • 2muchgovernment

            “…I would make sure you don’t misspell your words…” says the man who writes “On a side not….”.Lol.

  • Donald Duck

    Sell the building that housed LACADA !! and any other properties the county is sitting on that are empty. Use those funds to do the repairs to the old court house. We cannot lose the historical fixture in our downtown do to neglect. We will in the future need the space at the justice center. So just leave that alone for now. Why would we put 1.9 million into a building that is not worth 200,000????? DUH!!!! Sell it !!

  • Bill

    ““We’re going to have 100 thugs at the corner of Broad and Middle (Avenue) every day,” the judge told the commissioners.”

    Well Judge Burge, those 100 thugs are your thugs. If you would quit putting a lot of those thugs who obviously deserve prison back out on the streets you could reduce that number drastically.

  • tboehnlein

    Thugs?? Who puts them on probation!! Many of them belong in jail, lets just keep letting the drug dealers and the robbing lazy POS do their thing! The judge is a BULLY and a loser! Maybe he should pay for some of the renovations! Maybe he is afraid those THUGS will be to close to him!

    • SS

      So essentially what you are saying is that he should stop putting people on probation and throw everyone who is charged with drug use, petty theft. ect into the county jail; thus overpopulating the jails, creating millions of dollars more in taxes to pay for the incarceration of these thugs, and since they will all be in jail, we wont even have a need for the probation department, so why don’t we just get rid of it all together. Why hasnt anyone thought of this before?!?! You are a genius. Problem solved. While we’re running with this grand idea, since all off the drug using thieving lazy POS thugs will be in jail constantly because there is no probation so they have no way of getting rehabilitated, making them susceptible to just keep robbing and using and being criminals, why dont we just get rid of LCADA too, since it will be pointless. Million dollar ideas are brewing on the chronicle website today.

      • Daniel Sutter

        Most of these people have been in multiple times, each offense escalating, these people shouldn’t be put back out again until they finished their time. The judges that let the 5th time drunk driver back on the street or violent offender, if they do this without putting them through the max then they should be held responsible for their actions and share the penalty. But these judges think they can write a bench order for whatever they want. I could understand if a case was before them but to do it in general is offensive and should be criminal. (spelled checked for your liberalness)

  • Joe Flabetz

    So the elected officials responsible for the county’s finances do not get to evaluate spending a couple million dollars of our money, the judge get’s to order WHERE, WHEN and HOW one of the county departments gets offices and when. Something seems really wrong here. Businesses are leaving downtown now because of the THUGS”, are nicer offices gonna change all this? Burge’s title as Judge shouldn’t give him authority over all other elected officials and their authority. Once again, Burge will cost thousands of dollars of taxpayers money to challenge his actions in attorneys/court/staff time. Who cares, he doesn’t have to account for it. Just issue another order. Sad