Warren County approves $4.2M court facilities project, eyeing future growth

Expansion of the Warren County probate and juvenile courts is to cost about $4.2 million.
Expansion of the Warren County probate and juvenile courts is to cost about $4.2 million.

Warren County commissioners approved a $4.2 million renovation and expansion of the county’s probate and juvenile court facilities on Tuesday.

Construction is expected to begin in October on the project, which is nearly a decade in the making and the product of multiple designs and cost estimates ranging from $2.5 million to $7 million.

"They gave me exactly what we needed at this point. Not just for today, but for years to come," said Common Pleas Court Judge Joe Kirby, who presides over the county's juvenile and probate matters.

Two new courtrooms and space for a third, along with a new entrance and changes designed to create zones for the public, juvenile residents and staff, are meant to prepare the county for when it is expected to grow large enough to support separate juvenile and probate courts and judges.

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The addition is part of a series of improvements — expected to cost more than $60 million — planned on every building in the government complex in Lebanon, an effort that began about five years ago.

But competing priorities, including a $50 million-plus jail project, and cost overruns have delayed it.

RELATED: Construction costs stall Warren County projects

About a decade ago, Kirby drew up the original design for the court and detention center. The commissioners sent the judge, his staff and contractors hired for the project back to the drawing board after reviewing a $7 million, 16,700-square-foot plan.

K2M was replaced by Elevar as the project architect. The footprint was downsized to 11,600 square feet with a projected pricetag of $3.5 million.

This and other county projects have been stalled by cost overruns spurred at least partly by recent rising construction costs.

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On Tuesday, Elevar representatives presented the final design and estimated the cost at just over $4.2 million, including additions, such as $217,000 for a new entrance vestibule with bulletproof glass.

In response to questions from Commissioner Tom Grossmann, who is a lawyer, Kirby confirmed the new facilities were designed for the day when Warren County has separate juvenile and probate courts.

“We’re nowhere close to it,” Kirby said, adding the change would require state legislative action.

MORE: Opposition cools talk of relocating new Warren County jail