Logan County Court Employees Moving to a New Home, For Now
Jenna Gant | February 28, 2013
Dozens of Logan County courthouse employees were displaced after a windstorm swooped through Bellefontaine on June 29.Gusts of 80 miles per hour battered the 143 year-old courthouse.
"It came on very quickly. It was loud. Since we're on the top floor of the courthouse, I'm sure I felt it moved, so it got a little scary and that's when we decided all of the employees should go to the basement," Egbert said.
Court Administrator Debbie Egbert said she and the rest of the court employees were shocked by all the damage when they finally emerged from the basement.
"I walked to the side of the building, and I looked up and there was a gaping hole in the tower itself," Egbert said.
The wind was so strong it literally twisted the bell tower off of its base.
"Inside the tower you could tell there was a whole lot more damage. I mean some of the brick in which the tower sits was crumbling away. You could tell there had been some twisting. Several of the beams up inside were broken as well," said County Commissioner Tony Core.
Structural engineers deemed the building unsafe, saying the tower could tumble down at any time and crash into the courthouse.
The employees left for the day not knowing if court would be in session by Monday. County officials, including Tony Core, got together during the weekend to see what could be done.
"In a matter of a couple of hours we laid out a plan," Core said.
That plan involved spreading out the court staff throughout different parts of the county. Staff from the common pleas court general division moved to the jail facility outside of town. The family court divisions moved to Veterans Memorial Hall across the street from the courthouse. The clerk's office and probation department moved into the Juvenile Detention Center. Other clerk's functions and judges and magistrates offices moved in with the commissioners.
"They are just spread all over the place, and we have to have maps everywhere to tell people where to go," Core said.
But the effort paid off as court resumed on Monday, only half an hour behind schedule.
"Within an hour we were issuing marriage licenses. We were having court hearings. All of that continued to operate and truly everybody just chipped in and made it work," Core said.
After nearly 8 months, the court staff is finally together under one roof again. They recently moved into the old Carnegie Library, and it will be their temporary-permanent home until the courthouse is rebuilt.
The library sat empty for years, and the court's insurance money paid for $700,000 worth of renovations. Retired Judge C. Douglas Chamberlain spear-headed the construction, which started in October.
The court staff will still have to work in confined spaces. It was 21,000 square feet in the courthouse and only 8,500 square feet in the library. But Common Pleas Judge Mark O'Connor said they will make do.
"You just have to adapt," Judge O'Connor said. "Having been through one move we know that you can expect problems, but we'll continue to do the essentials."
It won't take long to fix the courthouse and its bell tower once construction crews start working on the project, but Core said there is no money right now to fix the historic landmark.
So for now this will be the court employees' home away from home.