Kent -- Sitting near the crest of East Main Street in Kent, Portage County's new municipal courthouse is busy with carpenters, painters and construction crews. The construction project is targeted to be complete by early March.

A recent hardhat tour of the building with Mardi Gauer, a project engineer for the Ruhlin Co., primary contractor on the building, showed much work still to be done before opening. While sub-zero temperatures ruled outside in the first few weeks of 2014, carpentry crews inside were installing wood wainscoting and trim in the main courtroom.

Some walls have been painted but others are still plain wallboard, waiting for paint or wallcoverings. Above, ductwork and electrical conduit still show above unfinished ceilings. Floors throughout are bare concrete, ready for tile in the public areas and carpet in offices.

While the contractors are aiming for an early March finish, JoAnn Townend, director of internal services for county commissioners, said the opening dau of court in the new building is still to be determined.

"It's a question of getting the court schedule pushed out enough," to move people and files from the existing courthouse on South Water Street and into the new facility, she said. "We want to make sure everything is done" before moving in.

Officials also are discussing a possible public open house for the new facility.

The two floor courthouse is divided with courts and judge's support staff on the second floor and clerk of court staff on the first floor. There is also a partial basement dedicated for record storage.

THE FRONT of the building is the public area-- a wide, two-level lobby inside the central entrance, filled with sunlight from six two-story arched windows across the front of the building.

To the right are windows where clerks will take payments for fines and tickets.

The building includes two elevators -- one in front for the public and one in back to move prisoners from a ground floor security area up to the courtroom level. The west side of the second floor is dedicated to a courtroom for whichever county municipal court judge is serving in Kent at the time.

Portage has three municipal court judges, who alternate between the Ravenna and Kent courthouses on an annual rotation.

The courtroom includes a jury box, witness stand and seating area for spectators. On the east side, there is a smaller magistrate's hearing room. That one lacks a jury box.

There are also small rooms for attorneys to confer with their clients -- resolving a major complaint with the current Kent courthouse which lacked any private space for attorney-client discussions.

Townend said the project is still on its budget target. "We're still working with the original budget of $10.4 million, and I know it's going to be under that. We are doing very well with any kind of change orders," she said.


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