Tuesday, June 22, 1999

Glitches galore as Kenton center opens


Employees: No chairs, no phones, no keys

BY CINDY SCHROEDER and JANE PRENDERGAST
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Phone service was spotty, several courtrooms lacked benches, and stairwells were marked with “wet paint” signs Monday, when the new Kenton County Justice Center opened to the public.

        As customers lined up outside the clerk's office Monday to pay fines or conduct other business, their chatter was punctuated by the sounds of a construction worker's drill as he installed the counter's sliding windows.

        A few customers stood atop a rolled up piece of carpet while awaiting their turn at the clerk's window, and visitors invited to “have a seat” soon learned that that was just a polite figure of speech, as the building was short some 500 chairs.

        Workers from Meridian Management, the firm in charge of operating the $20 million courthouse at 230 Madison Ave., kept busy Monday dealing with opening day glitches — everything from empty restroom soap dispensers to widely fluctuating courtroom temperatures.

        “We're happy with the move to the new building,” said Kenton Circuit Clerk Mary Ann Woltenberg, as she sat among unpacked boxes in her third-floor office. “We just wish we could have waited a couple of weeks so that things would have been ready.”

        The law library, where boxes of books were stacked several feet high, was closed for business Monday. Ms. Woltenberg said the shelves hadn't been put up yet.

        Other glitches: The video arraignment system, linked to the jail across the street, cut in and out during hearings, and the air conditioning worked overtime in some spots, leading at least one lawyer to say he'd be bringing gloves today.

        One observer jokingly referred to Kenton District Judge Marty Sheehan as “the Wal-Mart greeter,” after the judge gave reporters a tour of the building Monday and directed lost visitors.

        “Except for the fact that there are no phones, copiers, keys or buzzers (for the judges' chambers), it's a lot nicer than the old building,” Judge Sheehan quipped. “Really, all things being equal, we probably should have delayed the move a few weeks.”

        The judge appreciated, however, amenities such as a larger juvenile courtroom, and attorney/client waiting areas that allow private conversations.

        “You try your best to pick a (move) date that works, and at some point, you've just got to jump,” said Nick Schwendeman, general manager of the facilities unit of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

        Mr. Schwendeman said the main reason for moving now, rather than after the fiscal year ends on June 30, was to avoid paying rent on two buildings.

        “The last word we had was that it was basically minor punch list items that had to be done” at the new courthouse, Mr. Schwendeman said.

       



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