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Open house held for restored courthouse

Wood County officials hosted an open house at the county courthouse complex yesterday, after a 3-year, $5.7 million renovation of the site was finished.

County officials introduced the restored complex, which also includes the county jailhouse and a new atrium.

Jim Carter, President of the Wood County Commissioners, explained how the idea was brought up for a renovation.

“If you would walk around the courthouse or the jail, you would notice little flakes of stones laying all around the bottom of the courthouse,” Carter said. “If you’d look up, you’d see where some of the old stones had gotten fissures in them. Water had gotten in behind it, and the freezing and thawing would cause the pieces of stone to pop right off.”

The dated gutter system was a safety concern for the city. There was also water damage beneath the courthouse. These issues preceded the start of the courthouse and jail renovations in March of 2001.

Over the past three years, the clay tile roofs and gutter systems were replaced on both buildings. The stone surfaces were cleaned, and stones damaged from weather were replaced. County officials were able to get the same type of stone from the same Cleveland-based quarry from which the originals were bought over 100 years ago.

Stonework was not the only part of the complex that received repair. Restoration of the four clock faces on the courthouse was also completed.

Construction for this half of the project was done by the Historical Design Group, with help from General Contractor Grunwell-Cashero, Inc.

To coincide with the courthouse and jail restoration, planning for the atrium began in 2001 with SSOE Studios. The atrium ties together the courthouse and jail house, and creates an entrance on Summit Street. Along with bringing expanded security in the future, the atrium will also help the drainage and water damage issues. Mosser Construction served as the General Contractor of the atrium.

Inspite of the positive changes from the renovation, Carter said a few residents questioned the need for renovation at the on-set. The answer was simple.

“It was for the comfort of our employees who come here to do government business,” Carter said.

After the go-ahead decision was made, plenty of money for the renovation was raised through taxes. The atrium project received $1 million from the State of Ohio in 2000, however, the rest came from a successful economy.

County Commissioner Tim Brown said this money was placed in a capital projects account for funding.

“Perhaps the most important story to tell you here today is that while we give this building to future generations, we do not give them debt, and we do not give them the bill,” Brown said. “The economy was so good a few years ago before 9/11 that we were able to take sales tax and put it into a general projects account to do these projects.”

The general projects account allowed county officials to pay cash for all renovations.

Funding for the jail did not go to restoration for its original use. Instead, the building has been turned into a record center and law library.

These new features will re-open the building for public use. State Representative Bob Latta recalled the 1994 re-dedication of the building and said some Ohio counties have allowed their jailhouses to deteriorate to where they could no longer be used.

“I remember that when we did the re-dedication back in 1994 there was such great pride in this building,” Latta said. “Unfortunately a lot of counties had to tear theirs down because they didn’t take care of them,” Latta said.

The restoration not only reserves the complex for future generations, but it also maintains the history of past generations. County Commissioner Alvin Perkins said he thinks this is one reason the project was important.

“You don’t destroy history. We knew the old jail was history, and we knew the courthouse was history,” Perkins said. “We’re trying to do as much as we can for future county commissioners, and we had the money to do it.”

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