By TIMOTHY COX
WAPAKONETA — Auglaize County Commissioners are pressing
forward with plans to buy the former Ohio Bureau of Employment
Services (OBES) building in St. Marys to house the now-dislocated
western branch of the county municipal court system.
Commissioners agreed Thursday to submit a formal offer of $198,000
for the building, located at 114 N. Main St. The 3,600-square-foot
building is owned by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services
and the sale must be approved by the state Department of Administrative
Commissioner Ivo Kramer said a state official working with local
officials has recommended the state sell the building.
The future of the western court branch in St. Marys has been
in limbo since 1998, when the office outgrew its quarters on
Spring Street in downtown St. Marys. County officials appeared
close to a couple of solutions back then, including buying the
OBES building and building a new office, but both plans fell
through. The court eventually found a temporary home in St.
Marys but had to vacate that office when the building was sold
late last year. All court proceedings are now being held in
Kramer said county officials are certain the building would
be a suitable solution to the court’s needs, although
some renovations likely would be necessary.
The possibility of the court finding a new, permanent home came
as good news to people in St. Marys, New Bremen and Minster.
Police officers, attorneys and people summoned to court in the
western part of the county long have hailed the convenience
of having a St. Marys court branch. Municipal leaders say the
western court branch saves taxpayers money by reducing the time
police spend in court.
“If this goes through, this is good news. This is obviously
what we’ve been waiting for,” St. Marys Safety-Service
Director Mike Weadock said.
St. Marys Mayor Greg Freewalt and the mayors of the villages
have also been vocal proponents of bringing the western branch
of the court back to St. Marys.
Kramer said even if the sale is approved quickly, it likely
would be six months or more before court proceedings could begin
at the facility. That is because renovations are necessary to
outfit the office for court use, Kramer said. County officials
are hoping to pull the same renovation plan that designed several
years ago before state officials unexpectedly removed the building
from the market.
If the sale goes through, no tax dollars would be used to buy
the office, Kramer said. The municipal court has a capital improvement
fund built from court costs paid into the court with at least
$220,000 available, he said. That means county officials likely
would not even have to finance the purchase.