Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
By Amy Kronenberger
Auglaize courthouse revealed
WAPAKONETA - Auglaize County employees on Tuesday had their first look at the renovated courthouse.
Clerks and assistants hurried to their offices and inspected filing cabinets and desks. Judges rushed straight to their courtrooms.
"I'm trying to take it all in right now," common pleas court judge Frederick Pepple said. "It's an awful lot to absorb."
The 18-month, $8.6 million project is scheduled to wrap up in the coming weeks, with the courthouse officially opening in September.
Pepple commented how well the carpet, curtains and acoustical tiles absorb any echo in the large courtroom, now a third bigger and twice as tall. The former 9-foot drop ceilings were removed to reveal 20-foot stamped tin ceilings.
"Someone would need a scope to shoot me from the back row," municipal court judge Gary Herman joked about the size of his courtroom.
Many county employees marveled over a 14-foot mural spanning the side wall of the municipal courtroom. The painting of a Civil War battle scene had been covered for many years by shelving in the former law library. The library has been moved to the newly constructed fourth floor.
"This is gorgeous," county treasurer April Bowersock said of the courtroom. "I love the black curtains, very dramatic."
Other county employees were wowed by the televisions tucked in the juror's box that rise up with the press of a button.
The new main entrance for visitors and employees is located in the basement to the left of the main stairs on Willipie Street. The entrance will have bulletproof glass, a metal detector and an X-ray machine.
Police will bring prisoners through another entrance to the right of the main stairs, which leads to the public defender's offices and a lockdown area where prisoners will wait for trial. Four other entrances on the main floor will be locked but usable as fire exits.
A geothermal heating, ventilating and air conditioning system will use the temperature of the earth to heat and cool the building. Before the renovation, the courthouse used a coal boiler that had been installed in 1902. Workers would arrive at 6 a.m. to shovel coal into the furnace to have the courthouse heated by 8 a.m.
During summer months, window air conditioners were used to cool the building.
Commissioners have been setting money aside in a permanent improvement fund for several years and received a $1.3 million grant from the Ohio Department of Development's Office of Energy to replace the HVAC and lighting. The project, headed by Garmann-Miller Architects in Minster, is completely paid for; no loans were taken out.
"Without the award of the grant, Auglaize County would not have been able to start the renovation process to make this 19th century courthouse perform to the expectations of 21st-century justice," commissioner Doug Spencer said.
As workers move furniture and office supplies into the finished courthouse over the coming months, commissioners will work with Rachel Barber and the Auglaize County Historical Society to plan a public reopening and dedication event. No date has been set, but Spencer said it would be in September.
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