Delaware County officials decided to close the alley between the Rutherford B. Hayes Building and the new Delaware Courthouse during Thursday’s meeting of county commissioners.
It was also suggested during the discussion to change the address of both buildings from North Sandusky Street addresses to North Union Street addresses.
Delaware County Commissioner Gary Merrell said he invited everyone to participate in the discussion of the alley because he thought, “It’s extremely important that we all be brought up to speed and that we all have the same information. So, I just asked that we have a conversation this morning.”
Merrell said the question is, because of the safety issues involved, does the alley need to be closed?
According to the county’s map from the Delaware County Engineer’s Office, the name of the alley is Marshall Court.
Merrell called on Clerk of Courts Natalie Fravel to be the first to begin the discussion on the alley’s closure.
Fravel said there have been discussions about the alley since construction began on the facility and more after the completion of the new courthouse. She said the concern is for the people going to court in one of the two buildings.
She added people Google the Sandusky address, park on Sandusky Street, and then walk down the “paver patio, brick area, that seems to be more of a walkway type of thing that has been open to traffic.”
“Sometimes they are coming here for the first time. It’s unsafe there,” Fravel said. “With our offices on that side, we see the traffic daily. It’s a concern.”
Delaware County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jeff Balzer, speaking on the behalf of Sheriff Russell Martin, said their concern is for the “pedestrians and having vehicles that close to the building.”
“Federal government guideline suggests a 50-foot setback from courthouses and other critical structures,” he said. “That seldom happens just because where the buildings are located, but we do the best we can.”
Balzer said a vehicle with explosives could cause damage to the sides of both buildings as well as to the people inside of them. He said he spoke with Delaware City Fire Chief John Donahue about preventive measures between the buildings.
“He talked about curbing, possibly extend the curbing across it because the emergency vehicles can go over (the curb),” Balzer said. “Maybe some signage to indicate no vehicle traffic.”
Balzer added it is part of the emergency plan to have easy access to the alley between the buildings.
Commissioner Jeff Benton entered the discussion with the idea of changing the addresses of the building to Union Street addresses because it’s where the parking and the main entrances are located.
“It’s possible, and I think very appropriate for both buildings to have a Union Street address since both buildings face Union Street,” Fravel said.
Fravel added she didn’t see any downfall in an address change other than for the change in the stationary.
“I would just need time to deplete the supply, but I think that’s logical,” she said.
Deputy Administrator Dawn Huston was asked by the commissioners to look into changing the addresses of the buildings. She said it was as simple as sending the change of address to the city, and it would take care of everything for the county.
“It would take a 30-day period for everything to update and the post office would have the change of address on file for two years. So, it’s a pretty simple process,” she said.
Merrell said the alley had already been vacated by the City of Delaware.
“I have the resolution where (Delaware) did vacate that alley for part of the rezoning for the new courthouse,” said Jon Melvin, director of facilities.
Domestic Relations Court Judge Randall Fuller said he didn’t have much to add to what had already been said other than he agreed with everything.
“My concern is the timing. We don’t have near the postage the clerks have, but we would need sufficient time to order and get new stock in,” he said. “Initially, my concern is about the public having access. If we change the address, that certainly resolves my concern with it.”
Probate/Juvenile Court Judge David Hejmanowski recalled a time when he walked from the Hayes Building across the alley and nearly got ran over by a car. He was in favor of the idea to close the alley.
“If we were to change the address of the Hayes Building, I would suggest at the earliest, perhaps a Jan. 1, 2019 date to give us time to get things ordered, to burn through letterhead and envelopes,” Hejmanowski said. “If we don’t get through them, we are going to keep using them. We can sticker over them. I’m not going to throw things out — thousands and thousands of envelopes.”
Summarizing the discussion, Merrell said he didn’t think there is any debate about closing the alley.
“I would ask that we begin the process of working out the logistics with facilities and the curbing,” he said. “Issue number two becomes about the address.”
He asked Huston to contact the auditor’s and the treasurer’s offices for their input on the address change of the Hayes Building.
“I suggest that we look at Jan. 1 and change both addresses,” he said. “I think it will be well received.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.