July 28, 2014

Elyria
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Judges: Put old Lorain County Courthouse on death row

ELYRIA — Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi told the county commissioners on Wednesday that he was “appalled” by the state of the old Lorain County Courthouse, which houses the county’s Adult Probation Department.

“What I saw over there wouldn’t be appropriate for a probation department in a Third World country,” Miraldi said.

Miraldi said he and other judges toured the building earlier this week and saw black mold, asbestos, a broken elevator and numerous other problems in the more than century-old building.

Common Pleas Judge John Miraldi, who also took the tour, referred to the old Courthouse as “that pit” and said there were serious air quality problems inside.

The judges have pushed the commissioners for months to build out the vacant fifth floor of the Lorain County Justice Center to house the Probation Department. Some county officials have balked at the price tag of the preparing the fifth floor, estimated to cost $2.4 million to $2.8 million.

Administrative Judge James Burge has said the judges, who oversee the Probation Department, are willing to pick up half the cost of the project as well as any cost overruns.

The county had proposed moving the Probation Department to 374 Broad St. at a cost of $1.3 million, but that suggestion has drawn criticism from both Burge and Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda. They both have said they don’t want people on probation for felonies spending time in the downtown business area.

Burge has threatened that he and the other judges will issue a court order requiring the commissioners to spend money to upgrade the old courthouse if the fifth floor project isn’t approved.

Commissioner Tom Williams, who said he supports the fifth floor plan, said the cost of completely renovating the old courthouse would be between $10 million and $15 million.

County Administrator Jim Cordes said the problems at the old courthouse aren’t as bad as the judges have claimed.

For instance, he said the asbestos has been abated in the building and that mold will always be a problem in sandstone buildings. There is no proof, Cordes said, that there is black mold in the building.

Another issue, Cordes said, is that the Probation Department has expanded into areas of the building where they were never supposed to be. In a recent example, he said, a storage closet was converted to an office without the county being notified.

Cordes also scoffed that the commissioners had ignored the equivalent of a thick book worth of repair requests from the judges and probation officials. He said he is aware of three pages worth of complaints.

County maintenance workers have been making repairs to the building in recent weeks, although the judges and county officials have clashed over where and when city inspectors can enter the building to look for problems.

Commissioner Lori Kokoski said she and her fellow commissioners are open to finding a solution, but the judges only seem willing to entertain their plan to build out the fifth floor.

“It’s like my way or the highway with the judges,” she said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.

  • Mark B

    What ever they do I am sure there will be 10 – 20 Big screen TV’s plastered all over the place .

    • stillsleepyeyes

      with private parking and a food truck………………………

  • Nick Noneya

    And like every other historic building in Elyria, it will be bulldozed and a parking lot for the injustice center put in!!!

    • stop ur whining part deux

      Untrue. The City spent twice as much on City Hall because it was old buildings that were being renovated instead of knocking down the old buildings and putting up new ones.

      I believe they have learned their lesson, cheaper to knock down and start over.

  • golfingirl

    “Administrative Judge James Burge has said the judges, who oversee the Probation Department, are willing to pick up half the cost of the project as well as any cost overruns.”

    It is not your money Judge Burge, it is the taxpayers.

    What you are really saying is ….”TAXPAYERS are willing to pick up half the cost of the project as well as any cost overruns.”

    Please don’t spend my money and say I am willing to allow you to do so, unless you ask me first!

    Such arrogance!

  • golfingirl

    “…..are willing to pick up half the cost of the project as well as any cost overruns.”

    No a good sign when you go into a project already anticipating “cost overruns” and sticking them to the taxpayers!

    If a contractor says the price is “X,” hold them to that price! They get paid “X,” not “X” plus 25%!

    • stop ur whining part deux

      Over runs are already factored into every bid for any project. If you are getting your roof redone for example. There will be an extra charge in the estimate to replace bad wood. If they tear the roof off and there is no bad wood, that is cut off the estimate.

      Same in construction. Over runs are added to the estimate and then deducted if there are none. There is also probably wording in the estimate on finishing on time or early and receiving a bonus. Like in all the bridges being torn down and rebuilt on I90.

      • Pablo Jones

        Those aren’t over runs, those are budgeted contingent items. What happens with government work is that in order for the project to get started the project cost have to be low so that it looks like it won’t cost a lot of money. Then the contractors bid low so that they get the contract. They then are very vague on the work that will be done. Any work that isn’t spelled out in the contract requires a change order. Each change order means that it will cost more money to complete that task. This is where they make their money back.

        Blame the city for not knowing anything about construction for the cost over runs.

      • golfingirl

        I understand what cost overruns are, they are extra dollars spent to pay for unexpected costs, or poorly estimated costs.

        In your example, there can only be a refund if no unanticipated expenses are found. In reality, projects seldom are kept to budget and additional money is paid as the project progresses, with taxpayer dollars.

        Why would they agree to pay for cost overruns, if there can be none? If there can be only a lower cost?

        An example, The “Big Dig” project in Boston, where I once worked, originally had an estimated cost of $2.8 billion. However, the project was completed at a cost of over $14.6 billion. The taxpayers paid for all these extra costs.

        These are cost overruns. They are not added to the original cost and then taken away, they are added to the cost and expected to be paid with taxpayer dollars.

        A cost overrun, is a budget overrun and involves unexpected costs in excess of budgeted amounts. It is not a refund.

  • Sis Delish

    The Old Courthouse should be fully renovated. The Mayor should start a fundraiser to raise the needed funds. The Commissioners should do the same as should the Judges.

    At the rate they raised money for the 2nd of July Fireworks, the building’s mold should turn into fine cheese, and the French Tourism influx should be enough to finish the project in time for the buildings bicentennial.

    • Mark B

      Where is all of the money going that they collect in Fines and Court Costs ? Talk about a Gold Mine of a Never Ending Cash Flow .

      • Sis Delish

        Obviously, the Judges are Fine with cost of Court, and remanding all loose cash to any justifiable Court Cost.

  • Sis Delish

    Cut costs of renovation of Old Courthouse by utilizing the fellows in the Orange Striped outfits to do things like removing mold and other nasty, costly services.

  • Rosa Garcia-Gee

    Lorain County Justice Center should house the county’s Adult Probation Department. After all isn’t it part of the justice system ?
    No one should be working in that old of a historical building , Elijah E. Myers buildings are world famous. It is a shame that the National historical never helped contact Elijah E. Myers foundation to help restore this building. Wish they would turn it into a museum : Lorain County Courthouse (Elyria, Ohio) Historic 1881 Lorain County Courthouse in Elyria,Ohio.
    The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 . if it is already on the national registry … I was led to believe they do the restoring also Elijah E. Myers foundation would more then likely be interested. THE STAR DAY FOUNDATION did a lot in respect to honoring Elijah E. Myers work.

    • concernedcitizen

      Rosa,

      I bet you never imagined yourself in complete agreement with the lone Republican Commissioner, did you? He believes the Probation Department should also be located there. Perhaps we can both agree he is correct? Williams is right on a whole lot of other county issues as well.

  • golfingirl

    Headline reads…..

    Judges:  Put old Lorain County Courthouse on death row

    This is about the only thing these judges put on Death Row.

    Poor choice of words.

    • Pablo Jones

      Buildings are people too.

      • golfingirl

        I forgot, they all have a “soul.”

        At least that is what the preservationists tell us, when they want money to keep them standing.