August 21, 2014

Elyria
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Commissioner says old Lorain County Courthouse not so terrible

The old Lorain County Courthouse on Wednesday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

The old Lorain County Courthouse on Wednesday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

ELYRIA — Lorain County Commissioner Lori Kokoski said Wednesday that she doesn’t believe the conditions inside the old Lorain County Courthouse are as bad as they’ve been portrayed by the county’s General Division judges.

“I didn’t think it was so terrible,” she said.

Kokoski said she toured the building Tuesday and didn’t see any serious problems in the areas that the county’s Adult Probation Department has been assigned to use.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEgxf77wCFE

The judges want to move the Probation Department, which they oversee, to the unfinished fifth floor of the Lorain County Justice Center, a move the commissioners have balked at because the price tag to build out the floor would be between $2.4 million and $2.8 million.

The judges have complained for years about problems ranging from mold and rodent droppings to leaking pipes and asbestos. They have said the building isn’t a healthy work space.

Lorain County Commissioner Tom Williams and Karen Davis, facilities manager for the commissioners, walk through the old Lorain County Courthouse on Wednesday.

Lorain County Commissioner Tom Williams and Karen Davis, facilities manager for the commissioners, walk through the old Lorain County Courthouse on Wednesday.

Chief Probation Officer Beth Cwalina said Wednesday that maintaining security with convicted criminals in the building also is an issue that needs to be addressed. She said the building is laid out like a courthouse, which means the office can’t function efficiently.

“The building is just chopped up to the point where we can’t do good work here,” Cwalina said. “We just can’t.”

Cwalina did acknowledge that county Facilities Director Karen Davis has ordered numerous repairs both inside and out at the old courthouse, but those don’t address many of the overall problems. For instance, she said, dampness is so bad that dehumidifiers must run constantly in the basement, which also houses the county’s Crime Lab.

Davis and Kokoski said many of the problems inside the courthouse are in places that the Probation Department isn’t using. For instance, Davis said, she had ordered a lock placed on a second-floor restroom that had dried human waste in the toilets because the water was shut off.

Davis acknowledged that could have come from homeless people who had been breaking into — and possibly living inside — the building last year.

The commissioners had suggested relocating the Probation Department to 374 Broad St., which would cost about $1.3 million. Administrative Judge James Burge and Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda both opposed that plan because it would mean a large contingent of probationers gathering in downtown Elyria on a daily basis.

Commissioner Tom Williams also has suggested relocating the Probation Department to the fifth floor of the Lorain County Administration Building, which houses the county’s economic development and Solid Waste Management District offices.

Several of the county’s judges said they were open to the possibility during a tour of that space on Tuesday. It would mean relocating the current occupants somewhere else, likely the Broad Street location, Williams said.

But Williams said Wednesday that after further conversations with the judges, he thinks they might be able to reach an agreement to move the Probation Department to the Justice Center.

The judges have agreed to cover at least part of the cost by taking out a loan.

Kokoski said she’s concerned about the county taking on additional debt so soon after the commissioners borrowed money to repair crumbling county infrastructure such as sidewalks and roofs.

Burge has threatened that he and the other judges will issue an order to repair the old courthouse if the commissioners don’t agree to the move to the Justice Center. But he and the other judges also have said they are open to other options even after ordering the commissioners to cough up $50,000 to hire a Cleveland law firm to represent the judges in the dispute.

Williams said he’s hopeful a proposal he’s putting together involving the Justice Center space will lead to some sort of compromise that doesn’t involve a pricey legal fight.

“We’re going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a judge is going to say come up with a compromise,” he said.

Kokoski also said she’s worried because of the cost of potential security upgrades at the Justice Center the judges are reviewing as well as a new computer system that would link the various arms of the court system throughout the county.

Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski said a security committee is reviewing what security improvements need to be made. A final cost hasn’t been determined.

Commissioner Ted Kalo, who opposes moving the Probation Department to the Justice Center, said the cost of the computer system under discussion will likely be between $3 million and $6 million.

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

  • Sis Delish

    “For instance, Davis said, she had ordered a lock placed on a second-floor restroom that had dried human waste in the toilets because the water was shut off.”

    Dried Feces? In a Government Building??

    If that were in a Privately Held Company, the Government and its Health Department would be on it like flies… but, since it’s the Government, they just padlock it and hope it goes away.

    Come to think of it, that’s how most of Government operates…

  • saltydog77

    Lorain Co. has been run and mismanaged for decades by Democrats.Lorain Co. has lost good paying union jobs for decades. If this is the style of management that we can expect from the Democrats then it is time for the Dems to lose their long held positions due to their inability to lead.The people of Lorain Co. deserve better than this.

    • stop ur whining part deux

      If you want to blame anyone for union jobs disappear blame the unions themselves. Unions are crippling this country. They permit under-educated and under-qualified people to get job security that they shouldn’t have and guarantees that they receive more than they are worth. Look at Hotess bakery a few years back, bankrupted by unions. Detriot, gutted by unions.

      Long gone are the days where raises and security were just given away. Now if you want more money you need to get educated and work hard.

      • Scout

        amen!

    • golfingirl

      And I always thought the Democrats were “pro-union.”

      Funny thing is, they will continue to support them and keep them in office.

      Some things never change.

      • therest_ofthestory

        No I heard there’s problems with the unions and dems….

  • Fran Johnson

    Maybe the Commissioner should move her office to this building since it isn’t so bad! SMH, this building is in dire need of repair. The folks locked up have better conditions than this building. It’s time to move the employees from this building!!!!

  • GreatRedeemer

    The Judges will order the Commissioners. While they certainly have this power, there is something very un democratic about the peoples representative being ordered to provide new digs.

  • Pablo Jones

    It is spring time with hot and humid days after a cold winter. It is not a maintenance problem that the humidifiers are running constantly it is basic laws of nature the humid air will condense where it is the cold, in most cases that is the basement. My dehumidifier runs almost constantly 4 months out of the year.

    The rest of the issues look to be caused by poor maintenance. Basic up keep would prevent most of those issues. But I guess they figure if they just let the place fall apart they will be rewarded with a new office.

    I assume those are the worst areas, since they were trying to make a case for a new office. I was expecting things to look much worse. Tell them to make a list and start having the proper people make the repairs.

  • Jeff Kidder

    If Lori Kokoski doesn’t think the Court House is “terrible”, why doesn’t she move her office from the Lorain County “Taj Mahal” into the old court house for 6-months?

  • golfingirl

    How about having those who use the building be “sentenced” to helping to fix it up?

    A practical way to have those repay a debt to society for their criminal actions?

    May even learn a skill along the way, painting, light carpentry etc.

    Or would that be considered “cruel and unusual” punishment.

    Why work, when they can sit at home and collect entitlement benefits?

    • Razorback Twou

      What, they are talking about security issues and you think the “criminal”s should have poor tools?

      • golfingirl

        They are out on probation. They have legal access to power tools anyway. Ever heard of Lowes, or Home Depot?

        (I am assuming you meant “power” tools, not “poor” tools.)

        If they can’t be trusted with tools, they should not be out on probation!!!!!

    • therest_ofthestory

      Because someone will get hurt and sue so they get free money and don’t have to work.

  • golfingirl

    “….the cost of the computer system under discussion will likely be between $3 million and $6 million.”

    For $3M – $6M, will it be able to securely back up emails? The IRS probably spent billions on theirs, and it obviously is not capable of doing so.

    Unless of course we are not being told the truth?

  • stop ur whining part deux

    Those pics looked pretty bad to me.

    • luvmytoaster

      Do you think that they will show you anything good in that building when what they really want is to move? I don’t think so.

      • stop ur whining part deux

        The building has black mold. That alone should be enough to close that building down. They tear houses down when you get black mold.

        I think it is past wanting to move. I think they are to the point where they HAVE to move.

        • Pablo Jones

          I believe they said in a previous article it wasn’t black mold, just a reaction between the limestone and water. To me some of the pictures looked like cosmetic issues. A few systems probably need most costly replacement, but that should be expected there is a life expectancy with equipment and pipes, those costs should have been factored into their maintenance budgets.

          • stop ur whining part deux

            Forgive me, I did not realize it was not black mold. And yea I agree. That building is very, very old and you can not expect to not have it fall into disrepair. My father worked downtown and was in that building often. I remember as a kid him saying at the dinner table that it was a dump and needed to be better cared for and that was more than 20 years ago.

          • Mark B

            Parts of EMH hospital is just as old , how did it survive , oh wait , maybe they did maintenance on the building. Why is it that only city and county or government buildings get run down to this point ?

          • golfingirl

            Survived because it is in the private sector, not a government owned/run building.

            Can’t maintain the health of a building, but think they can manage the health of all Americans.

  • Oneday67

    I learned something new. If you have dried human waste in a toilet with no water just pad lock the bathroom door. Brilliant. These people are running your county folks.

  • SandyLey

    That is a beautiful old building. Most of what I see appears to be cosmetic resulting from gross neglect. wouldn’t it be cheaper to just fix it up?

  • Mark B

    Lets not forget that a couple of years after the new justice center opened they had several pipes burst and flood several floors , but somehow they managed to FIX that .

  • Phil Blank

    They just don’t want to spend tne money.
    But why are there offices not located there?
    They should be in there breathing in the black mold and asbestos if its not that bad, might be lead paimt dust too, but that can’t hurt them, so move in there!

  • Phil Blank

    If there is no elevator in the old court house, by law they have to move!

  • therest_ofthestory

    If it’s not so bad move Kokoski’s and Kalo’s office to the old court house……

  • Scout

    They should fix up the old courthouse and turn it into a museum or something. Let the historical society take care of it.
    As for workers working in that enviroment-oy! Mold has a way of seeping all over and anyone with a sensitivity to it will feel it eventually. You can’t sell a house with black mold in it-we shouldn’t expect people to work with it around.