Thursday, August 21, 2014

Officials: Cooler courthouse worth the mess

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 4/7/2014

Tight working space today will be well worth it once construction at the Franklin County Courthouse is complete, Janet Paddock said.

The courthouse, 315 S. Main St., Ottawa, now is in the midst of installing a new HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system. The previous boiler was more than 30 years old and the only cooling came from window units throughout the courthouse, Lisa Johnson, Franklin County administrator, said.

Work began Jan. 2 and is set for a contract completion date July 1, Johnson said. The Franklin County Board of Commissioners issued bonds for the project in mid-February at an estimated cost of $2 million, according to a resolution passed in February.

It has been an uncomfortable process for some, Paddock, Franklin County clerk, said, but the project eventually should prove worthwhile.

“Some of the offices are crowded while they’re working in the space, but the overall feeling is it will be worth it when it’s all said and done,” she said. “They did just start drilling out on the lawn today, so that’s a new development that’s taken the noise factor up a bit.”

Every inch of open space is either filled with tools and materials or with office materials, Paddock said.

“Before the end of last week, they had a site box out [on the lawn] that had a lot of tools and materials in it because every nook and cranny is full of stuff waiting to be installed,” she said. “The [old] courtroom is being heavily utilized for space to put all the supplies, but they needed additional room and put in the site box.”

The Franklin County Appraiser’s Office was the only office in the courthouse to be relocated because of the work, Sue McCay, Franklin County register of deeds, said.

“The appraiser’s office had offices on the third floor that had to move to the second floor while they were doing work and the mapper, Roy Baker, on second floor had to move with the appraiser’s office,” McCay said.

They might not be easy to find right now, but real estate records still are accessible to the public, McCay said.

“We’ve set up tables in [another room to the west] and have all the index books and things the title people have to access and we moved some chairs over there, and all the records are over there now,” she said. “It’s just like we’re set up in two offices. They’ve put up a false wall and shut off the vault area.”

The new cooling units are a change Paddock said she’s looking forward to with summer weather on the horizon.

“[The window unit] serves its purpose, but it’s not nearly as effective as our new system’s going to be,” Paddock said. “The biggest thing is efficiency. The window units are not efficient at all, and our new system will be very efficient, and we’re expecting to see cost savings in the bills. The lower cost of the utility bills will pay back for the system over time.”

The current close quarters also could be seen as efficient, Paddock joked.

“We’ve just kind of moved closer together and you could probably pass stuff desk-to-desk right now,” Paddock said laughing. “We’re totally making do with what we have until this all gets done and everyone feels a little pinch from time to time on their space situation.”

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