Courthouse, AB Graham renovations looming

The Clark County Common Pleas Court and AB Graham buildings are expected to undergo $3 million in upgrades starting this summer.

Renovations to the two buildings are needed as they do not have central air, operate with a hot water boiler system and have no fire suppression system, Clark County Administrator Nathan Kennedy said.

Clark County commissioners will soon ask architects to submit their qualifications and proposals on the projects, he added.

Renovation work could begin in June and it is badly needed, Kennedy said.

“They have antiquated HVAC in that they don’t have HVAC,” Kennedy told criminal justice officials late last year. “They have heating. They have window air conditioners and they have windows that open. They don’t have a regular HVAC system. They’re in need of repair on the outside. Water is coming in some parts of the building — through the roof and through the walls. That’s a problem. Drainage is a problem. They’re in need of renovations.”

Officials plan to borrow money to pay for the projects. They have also worked to pay off debt and build up the county’s rainy day fund in preparation for the renovations, Commissioner Rick Lohnes said.

Kennedy said revenue from the county’s half-percent sales tax, which commissioners voted to continue for three years in 2013, will help offset costs as well.

“We’ve been putting (renovations) off for years,” Kennedy said. “…One of the ways we financed county government there for a while during the recession was to defer projects like these and they started stacking up, and now we finally are starting to dig ourselves out so we need to get caught up on this stuff.”

In addition, juvenile officials want to spend $300,000 — $100,000 of which would come from juvenile court — to convert outside space on the south side of juvenile detention into indoor space.

The exterior of the Clark County Department of Job and Family Services building is also expected to get a $200,000 to $300,000 facelift.

Commissioner John Detrick said officials have discussed renovating the courthouse and AB Graham buildings for years, but didn’t have plans to finance the projects.

Detrick anticipates that the courthouse renovations will be completed before the AB Graham building.

“We’ll be more energy efficient… It’s been more comfortable and cost efficient to the taxpayers,” Detrick said.

Lohnes said officials created a capital improvement plan years ago in anticipation of the construction projects.

“We’ve been keeping ourselves financially sound knowing at some point in time we were going to borrow money to fix these buildings,” Lohnes said.

He said some residents have expressed concern that renovations to the courthouse and AB Graham buildings would destroy the historical appearance of the buildings. Lohnes said officials are cognizant of those concerns and also want to make sure the buildings are safe.

In addition to the structural issues and problems with the heating, air conditioning and electrical systems, the courthouse doesn’t have a fire suppression system or a fire alarm system, he said.

“That’s got to be fixed,” Lohnes said.

Kennedy said once the renovations are completed, the courthouse and AB Graham buildings will better serve the people who work there and the general public.

“They’ll be safer and they’ll be more energy efficient and they’ll last longer, they’ll be more green and more comfortable,” Kennedy said.

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