Sandusky Municipal Judge: Court badly needs upgrades

Sandusky Municipal Court Judge Erich O'Brien offered a bold verdict on the structural aspects of his courthouse, based on testimony from others.
Andy Ouriel
Jan 21, 2013

 

"Do you really understand how crappy it is?" O'Brien said, recalling previous conversations of others complaining to him about the facility's layout and structural integrity.

To remedy the problem, O'Brien recently set out to rally city officials — he wants guidance on whether he should upgrade his current digs in City Hall or build an entirely new courthouse.

"Anything would be better," O'Brien said. "You can let me have an Army surplus tent attached to that building."

Among the courthouse's shortcomings:

- Floor plan: Court offices are scattered throughout City Hall's first floor and are not connected.

- Cramped spaces: O'Brien said he's probably the only judge in Ohio sharing an office with a bailiff.

- Poor security: There are few measures in place to protect workers from possibly agitated people who attend or appear for court hearings.

Case in point: "I hit the panic button 11 months ago and I'm still waiting for a response," O'Brien said.

Any decision on the courthouse depends on what the seven city commissioners have planned for City Hall, a 57-year-old facility. A month ago, talks about a new city headquarters surfaced when officials discussed expanding the court facility.

George Poulos, Sandusky's chief building official under contract, said he'd prefer building an entirely new complex, rather than piecemeal upgrades, since he considers City Hall architecturally inferior.

"I'm not looking to build a $6 million project," Poulos said.

Preliminary estimates on construction costs for a new complex range from $2 million to $4 million.

O'Brien, who oversaw about 15,000 cases in 2012, vowed to contribute $1.85 million of his own court budget for an updated courthouse, be it new or refurbished.

The judge stashed away surplus money from years past, sparing taxpayers from fronting any additional money for the project.

As a comparison, Erie County Municipal Court Judge Paul Lux spent $1.7 million for a revamped courthouse on Mason Road West in Milan Township.

Lux's facility, also paid for with surpluses from years past, should open in the coming weeks.

Over the next six months, O'Brien plans to continue spearheading a fact-finding mission to determine the most economically efficient option. By July he wants answers from commissioners about their direction for City Hall.

"We waited for over 15 years for this," O'Brien said. "Why shouldn't this be something you're proud of and be guaranteed that my staff has a right to work in a place where they can be more efficient?"

Comments

KURTje

Hey judge...here's a tip. Hire some recent combat vet(s) as bailiff(s). Make them adhere to physical standards, though they probably are self-motivated on that 1. There....one of your problems is solved.

The Answer Person

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Remarks advocating illegal or violent actions.

Second Opinion

So you believe its ok for the City to violate certain laws and use the waterfront as long as you or other feels its for the better? How fitting if the Court did this, talk about a mockery of justice. No wonder crime is rampant with such logic.

Factitious

For Sandusky, nothing has the potential to contribute more to economic vitality that an excellent, visible, and accessible bayfront. It's the city's best asset, but that's why so many greedy selfish people will never stop inventing reasons why publicly-owned waterfront property should be theirs, and not The People's. The Waterfront watchdogs are needed because they save the city from itself. They are many, and the demise of any one won't end their work, but apathy, foolishness, and devious greedy selfish people can undermine it.

donutshopguy

Put him in an Army tent as he requested. Sounds like we have a public servant who is a whiner. Maybe he will stomp his feet or throw himself on the floor. Grow up. People in this city have no food or shelter.

Nice imitation of Gene Kelly "Dancing in the Rain" for your photo op. Your an embarrassment to the citizen of the community.

tk

Wrong on two counts. He is neither a whiher nor is he an embarrassment, at least not to this citizen. He is really a very nice guy.

Swamp Fox

O'Briens lax attitude towards repeat offenders is one of the reasons for crime in Sandusky. His photo with the umbrella, unprofessional clearly indicates his attitude towards the job....

Speakezy

This blog desperately needs a like button!

behonest

At least the Sandusky Court provides a way for people to collect the money awarded to them in its small claims court. Go to Lux's court and all you get is an attitude and told to get a lawyer. What is the purpose of a small Claims Court if when you win the court tells you to get a lawyer!

Now The Rest of...

It might be your attitude is a reflection, its not the court's responsibility to collect civil judgements.

donutshopguy

I am taking up donations to purchase a used Army tent for Judge O'Brien. I've already contacted an Army/Navy surplus store to start the ball rolling. The more donations the bigger the tent. Remember, with public officials its about who has the biggest.

Julie R.

Like.

OnlyfoolsAssume

Swamp Fox is spot on. Unfortunately O'Brien sides with the criminals so he can continue to get re elected

TuffNutts2011

Yep.

Factitious

OK, so, everyone knows a tent is not an alternative plan, right?

Let's get this back on topic and talk about alternatives.

So far we have one. George Poulos is a fine and experience architect who has had perhaps more influence than anyone on the state of downtown. But what's wrong with looking at other alternatives?

donutshopguy

Factitious,

When the judge and the city have the money saved than go ahead and build or renovate. No more deficit spending. How's that for an alternative?

excel

I'm sure we have no better way to spend 2-4 million in the community then to upgrade the court house. I'm sure just patching the dripping ceiling the judge was pictured under is out of the question. God knows once normal peoples roofs start leaking they replace their building.

I'm also glad the judge has been stockpiling our excess funds for years, glad this came up so he had something to spend them on. I would think with the metal detectors and specialized metal detecting staff he had installed the panic button wouldn't be such a necessity. Never the less well done judge, good luck with your future judging of people.

Julie R.

This court (according to the judge) badly needs upgrades? Can't speak for this court but I can speak for a couple of others. They need some desperate upgrades, too. They can start by upgrading their ethics and then move on to following the law.

richrs

dang Julie your asking for a lot on a Monday morning. :)

Darkhorse

I am so tired of tossing the relocation of City Hall around. How many times do we have to rehash and keep rehashing the same subject over and over. So much time has been spent on this already and the end result is that the city cannot afford to move. Spending all of what is left of our tax dollars takes money away from other things we need to really get done in the city. It is not just moving City Hall but moving the police station and the courts. The movers and shakers have in their heads to develop the area on the taxpayer's dime. How many times do we have to learn? We have a chance to get out of debt and instead, we have people talking us into going futher into debt for the sake of development. The enconomy is still shaky so I can't imagine any bank allowing us to take on more debt. Somebody has to have some sense and responsibility.

shucks

I'm with you Darkhorse.

-----------------------
I liked the picture.

Train

OMG I am actually agreeing with donutdude.

R U Kidding me

To bad the schools asked first haha start charging the people for there crimes and build a new one

wiredmama222

I still think that setting up a bond sale issue would be a good idea. If they want to build a new city hall, then try to raise the money FIRST through selling bonds. If that succeeds, then go ahead. The judge already has money raised for part of it. With the sale of bonds, if they can get money raised for the majority of the rest of it, then go for it. If not, then forget it.

Renovating a building such as the old 7th grade Adams building would save a ton of money right off the bat. There would be no problem with a renovation and be a cost savings as well. Lots of room, etc. Have George take a look at that and see what it would cost to do that.

No big deficit in spending if a renovation can be done. Sell municipal bonds to defray the costs and go for it. PROBLEM SOLVED. Everyone makes things too hard around here. If there are problems: solve them. Don't belabor them into oblivion, solve them and move on. GEEZE.

pavedparadise

Why not renovate the current City hall site. Word in the real world is the current building was built for upward expansion.

Muni Bonds don't grow on trees--there is costs associated. Wonder why we need to have a $4 million dollar carry-over balance?? Any ideas Wired??

cockynurse

The police aren't whining about the building, are they? The water department isn't whining-they don't even have "offices" to share-they share cubbies lol! The city tax office isn't crying. This is just going to open a great big pandora's box-if the building isn't good enough for the court, how can it be good enough for any of the other offices?

How about a bigger jail? We can sit a little municipal court in there somewhere-make the jail HUGE-big enough to accommodate 500+ inmates. Prisoners can go straight from court to jail-like they deserve and no excuses as to why they get ankle monitors or probation. Look-fewer criminals on the street, more jobs, new court room, less whining, problem solved.

I say tell the judge we need to see more action out of his court-less repeat offenders-harsher punishments-then, maybe we will reward him with a new building. For now, Get the Army tent.

wiredmama222

The police asked for more updates I believe. The upstairs offices need more room as well in the city offices part of the building. The Courts need more room.

I totally agree the jail sure needs more room. And I totally agree that prisoners should go straight to jail from court without ankle monitors or probabtion because of overcrowing. The county cannot handle what they have now. Those are all good points. Everyone needs more space. That is why the city almost has to move things.

I would LOVE to tell the judge what you said and I totally agree...but without the room he has no choice. So if we give him more room he has no excuses wouldn't you say so.

Lets give him the jail space and tell him to fill it up. No more excuses....you have the jail room, not fill it up and stop giving us excuses why you can't put these people in jail. You now have PLENTY of room. I totally agree. A building as big at the old Adams Bldg basement would render a BUNCH of room for cells down there. HUGE ones to house what they need.

Good points. Never thought of that. More room, no excuses to put them away. Good job, cockynurse.

T. A. Schwanger

Since 1975, there have been at least three attempts at selling City Hall and relocating downtown---not in the name of need but "to promote economic growth" downtown. Now I shop and eat downtown and I do it out of my own free will to promote the downtown.

It is not local government's obligation to promote economic growth in any area of this community by moving government offices.

The Register recently reported 25 new business' have set up shop downtown--that's called capitalism.

Those three attempts of relocating City Hall I spoke of earlier did not stop at 222 Meigs Street--adjacent property, including tennis courts, skatepark, parts of the sailing club and the Federally protected Sandusky Bay Pavilion were also on the auction block. My reliable sources tell me the same holds true this time around.