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The Suburbanite
  • Public defender, court programs moving to Bow Building

  • The Stark County Public Defender’s Office and five court programs are moving into the Frank T. Bow Federal Building over the next week. The building is expected to be completely open for business Jan. 31.

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  • The moving trucks came a day early, but Tammi Johnson and her staff in the Stark County Public Defender’s Office already had rows of boxes waiting for them Thursday.
    They have been preparing for the move since September.
    “You collect a number of files when you do 10,000 cases a year,” said Johnson, the county’s public defender since 1992. “... It was a mess.”
    The public defender is one of six offices moving to the renovated Frank T. Bow Federal Building at 201 Cleveland Ave. SW, which opened as a central post office and federal office building in 1933 and most recently housed federal offices such as the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and the Internal Revenue Service until they moved to the new Ralph Regula Federal Building in 2010.
    Marc Warner, administrator for the Stark County Common Pleas Court, said the court’s Intensive Supervision Probation, Day Reporting, Pre-Trial Release and Reentry Court programs will move to the Bow Building over the next week and open there no later than Jan. 31. The Ohio Adult Parole Authority is expected to move in the first week of February, he said.
    Johnson expects the public defender’s office to reopen at its new location Tuesday.
    BRAND NEW BOW
    Stark County commissioners officially acquired the Bow Building in November 2011 for $1 from the federal government, with the goal of saving money by moving the public defender’s office, Intensive Supervision Probation, Pre-Trial Release and the Reentry Court programs out of the aging and energy-inefficient County Administration Building at 200 Tuscarawas St. W and moving the Day Reporting program out of its $66,000-a-year leased office space at 1375 Raff Road SW.
    A financial analysis in December 2010 estimated the county could save roughly $253,000 over 10 years with the move. The analysis also didn’t include the proceeds from the sale of the Administration Building, which the county auditor has appraised at $1 million.
    In August, contractors started the $1.5 million renovation project, which was jointly funded by commissioners and the Stark County Common Pleas Court.
    Many of the exterior improvements are subtle, such as roof repairs and new fasteners behind the 22 aluminum panels along the sides of the building. The lobby retains its 13 distinctive murals that depict local steel manufacturing. New public restrooms have been installed, and visitors will be greeted by two sheriff deputies with bag screening equipment and a metal detector.
    Behind the doors off the main lobby is where the change is the most obvious. The expansive open areas that once served as courtrooms no longer exist. Walls with new pale yellow paint have been constructed, giving each department its own suite of offices.
    The public defender will move into the largest area on the first floor — 5,833 square feet — at the opposite end of the main entrance. The Intensive Supervision, Pre-Trial and Day Reporting programs will be grouped on the eastern side of the building, while the court’s Reentry program will be on the west side. The state Probation Department will rent office space in the basement at $9,994 a year. The office, which now resides rent-free on the third floor of the Stark County Office Building, also has agreed to contribute $160,064 over two years to the cost of the building’s renovation.
    Page 2 of 2 - The county will not use the second floor of the building at this time, due to the high cost of making it accessible.
    UPSIDES
    Warner said by grouping the court programs, which provide services to people awaiting trial, on probation or just released from prison, under one roof will allow them to better share resources and make more efficient use of commonly used areas such as the five drug-testing restrooms that are equipped with only a toilet, cabinet and a mirror on the ceiling.
    Johnson said the public defender’s new, larger space will give her office ample storage and will allow her staffers to  have their own offices rather than doubling up, as many of them are forced to do now.
    Other significant benefits, Johnson said, will be the security that the offices don’t have now and a regulated heating system.
    “While the people who do our heating and air conditioning do their best (in the Administration Building), the system is so old,” she said. “You don’t know from one day to the next if it’s going to be a warm day inside or a cold day inside.”
    She said the office temperature range from 95 degrees in the summer to below 55 degrees in the winter. Several years ago, Johnson said, she had to trade her blanket for a space heater — and a standing fan.
    “It’s been a good office for us for the past 12 years, but we need to move,” she said.