Darrell Banks

Richland County Commissioner Darrell Banks said Thursday the old jail cells have been removed from "L2" at the courthouse. (Richland Source file photo)

MANSFIELD -- Local architects and engineers are busy people, it would appear.

Richland County Administrator Andrew Keller said Thursday morning it will likely be two more months before a company is selected to design the renovations that will allow the relocation of the Clerk of Courts and lead to the addition of a fourth Common Pleas General Division courtroom.

Commissioner Darrel Banks said the former county jail cells on "L2" have been removed and the space prepared for work that will lead to the creation of offices for Clerk of Courts Linda Frary and her staff in about 3,400 square feet of the space.

In the space that remains on "L2," about 2,400 square feet will become a general meeting room with public restrooms. Another 2,528 feet will become general storage area or left for future development.

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On Feb. 17, commissioners officially asked for engineering or architecture firms to submit their qualifications for the project by March 14.

Commissioners declined to say how many firms submitted qualifications for the project, but Banks said, "it was less than 10."

Keller said the county would like to move faster, but understand the process, which includes ranking the submissions and entering into negotiations.

"Design professionals in this community are swamped," he said. "I hope it's sooner (than two months), but I think we can assume (it will take that long)."

Commissioners have said they plan to use "lost revenue" provisions under the American Rescue Plan Act to pay for the project.

The movement toward the project began in May 2021 when Common Pleas Court general division Judges Brent Robinson and Phil Naumoff asked commissioners for a fourth courtroom.

That courtroom will be constructed in the space being vacated by the Clerk of Courts office.

The judges cited additional space needed due to COVID-19 requirements, an increased number of jury trials and changes in state laws requiring speedier criminal arraignments and hearings.

It would be used by both judges and their three magistrates and would also provide extra space for the county prosecutor to conduct grand jury sessions.

Naumoff said Feb. 10 the additional courtroom is needed, even though local COVID-19 caseloads are currently declining during a pandemic that began almost two years ago.

"The fourth courtroom has been a necessity," he said. "COVID just hastened it."

The entire project, including the new courtroom, may take 18 months to a year to complete, officials have said.

Chuck Hahn, Cleveland Financial Group, invests in this independent reporting through a Newsroom Partnership.

City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"