Courthouse plans moving forward
By Fran Odyniec
After 15 years that have included considerations, planning and a change of locations, the Madison County Building Commission on Monday cleared a virtual bump in the road en route to the construction of a new municipal courthouse at the corner of Fourth and North Oak streets in London.
The question of who is to pay for the operating expenses of the new courthouse was raised during a meeting the commissioners had on Friday, Aug. 17 with Madison County Common Pleas Judge Robert D. Nichols, Madison County Municipal Judge Eric M. Schooley, Madison County Prosecutor Steve Pronai, and Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin to discuss inmate housing overages at Tri-County Regional Jail.
Up until that point, it was on a gentleman’s agreement between the commissioners and the municipal judge that operating costs for the new courthouse would be covered with funds from the Municipal Court’s Special Projects Fund from which the $2.1 million price tag for the new courthouse will also be paid.
Commissioner David Dhume said that clarity was needed on the gentleman’s agreement so that proper planning could take place.
“Overage costs at the jail have escalated,” Dhume said. “We’re concerned if we would still have money for the maintenance of the new building. We do not want to take on that additional cost.”
According to Sabin, projected costs based upon current trends for Madison County’s share of inmate housing through the end of 2012 could reach as high as $575,000.
“I wouldn’t burden the county with operating costs,” said Schooley adding that he is also committed to reimbursing the county $360,000 for the land for the new courthouse. “This is a one-time shot to build a facility at little or no cost to the taxpayers.”
Nichols said that Schooley had expressed concern as to how he would be able to pay those operating costs from the municipal court’s special projects fund. A simple transfer of funds would not be permissible due to the nature of the special projects fund.
After further discussion, the building commission instructed Pronai to prepare a resolution that will spell out the terms of the agreement regarding the operating funds (estimated to be near $50,000 annually) and the special grant process needed for those funds to be included in the county’s General Fund.
In the interest of clarity, Nichols pointed out that a commitment to pay the $360,000 for land acquisition cannot be made past the municipal judge’s five-year term.
“Those funds must be recouped during his election cycle,” said Nichols.
“By statute, any agreement I make here, I’ll honor,” Schooley told the building commission.
Another issue that was addressed was the question of how the construction management of the courthouse project would be handled. Previously, the commissioners had discussed the pluses and minuses of a single prime vs. a multi-prime contractor.
After research, they decided that for convenience and economy the use of a single prime contractor would be preferred.
By definition, a single prime contractor centralizes responsibility and management with one contractor of a project. With a multi-prime contractor approach, more than one single prime contractor is involved whereby the customer contracts with each prime contractor and can serve as a construction manager or hire a construction manager.
“We defer to Judge Schooley on this contract arrangement,” said Commissioner Paul Gross, “whichever he would be comfortable with, we’ll support his direction.”
“Everyone I’ve consulted with favors a single prime,” said Schooley.
According to Nichols, the state of Ohio has moved from multi-prime to single-prime contractual arrangements.
The commission agreed to have the county commissioners advertise for bids for a single-prime contractor as soon as possible.
With that as a starting point, Gross said, “We could expect a groundbreaking in the spring of 2013.”
Before the building commission met on Monday, there was some speculation that the commissioners could “pull the plug” on the project.
“We had no intent to pull the plug,” Dhume said. “However, rumors do tend to prevail.”
“Our action today clarifies and sets straight what came out of the rumor mill,” said Commissioner Mark Forrest of the commission’s action to move the municipal courthouse to its next phase.