Friday, January 23rd, 2015
Courthouse project changes; coal bin issue slated to be addressed
By Shelley Grieshop
Mercer County Maintenance Supervisor Dave Dorsten on Thursday peers up through a. . .
CELINA - New plans to improve handicapped-accessibility at the courthouse include filling an aging underground coal bin but exclude proposed changes to the main entrance.
The Mercer County Courthouse Committee met Thursday and recommended the estimated $220,000 project move forward.
"The project will be completed before the end of the year," noted community development director Jared Ebbing, who unveiled the latest plans at the meeting in the courthouse auditorium.
The work - expected to take two months - involves creating a 20-foot-wide circle drive along Livingston Street with three handicapped and five reserved parking spaces near the courthouse on the north side.
Currently the area offers two small handicapped-accessible spaces and a reserved parking area for elected officials and maintenance workers. Adjacent is a steep concrete ramp, which doesn't comply with federal handicapped guidelines, stretching from the sidewalk to the building entrance.
A new ramp will be built from the parking area to the west side of the courthouse where an automatic door will be installed, according to plans. The entrance also will be used by sheriff's deputies who transport inmates to court, officials said.
The current ramp on the west lawn will be removed, Ebbing said.
"The ramp we have now isn't easy to navigate because of all the turns," he said.
Ebbing said $90,000 in Community Development Block Grant formula funds and possibly other grant dollars may be used for expenses directly related to the project. However, county money - already allocated by commissioners in a capital improvement account - must be used for the remaining work, he said.
The new plan would cost about the same as the previous one, which had included new and replaced sidewalks on the front lawn with a new ramp and automatic-open door.
The proposed new drive and parking area are directly above the underground coal bin once used at the courthouse. Concrete for decades has been crumbling above and below the ground, exposing rebar in many areas, officials said.
Two doors in the courthouse basement lead to the empty coal bin. Pieces of fallen concrete and puddles are scattered across the floor in the damp and dark divided areas. Drops of water periodically trickled from the ceiling during a walk-through by The Daily Standard on Thursday.
County commissioners and maintenance supervisor Dave Dorsten said work on the underground coal bin - a combined area measuring about 48-feet-by-38-feet - is long overdue. One official during the meeting called it "deep, dark and ugly."
"It was an issue back in '93 and it's still an issue," Dorsten said.
Common pleas court Judge Jeffrey Ingraham, a courthouse committee member, said the newest renovation plans help restore the historic structure to the way it was decades ago.
Ingraham was pleased with the proposed enhancements. The north end presently "isn't the best-looking side of the courthouse," he said.
Commissioner Jerry Laffin said if money is available the county may seek alternative bids to replace deteriorating sidewalks at the main entrance and sidewalk and curbing on the west side.
"We would always have the right to reject those bids," he added.