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County recommends proceeding with Friend of the Court relocation

Barry County Friend of the Court offices, currently at 102 S. Broadway in Hastings, are expected to relocate to the Courts and Law Building, 206 W. Court St. this summer. (Photo by Rebecca Pierce)



FOC building's future use not yet decided



A $780,000-plus project to relocate the Barry County Friend of the Court offices to the Courts and Law Building will be getting underway soon, County Administrator Michael Brown told the Banner Tuesday.

At their committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, county commissioners recommended approval of a schematic design by Landmark Design Group for renovations in the 206 W. Court St. building.

Their action, if approved at the board meeting next Tuesday, will authorize a $43,800 expenditure from the county's building rehabilitation fund. Those funds would allow architect Timothy Spitzley of Lake Odessa to proceed with the construction drawing, bidding and contract administration phases of the project.

The original architect on the project, Robert Van Putten, president of Landmark Design, has retired, Brown said. So, they had to find a new architect to handle the project, which involves relocating the Friend of the Court and public defender offices, along with improvements of security screening, adult probation reception and lobby, district court magistrate hearing room and district and probate court holding cells.

Overall, the project estimate is between $789,000 and $957,000, Brown said.

The cost range, per floor, is $341,00 to $377,000 for the work on the lower level; $315,000 to $398,000 on the first floor, $105,000 to $120,000 on the second floor and $55,000 to $62,000 on the third floor.

“I think the project's going to come closer to the $780,000 number,” Brown told commissioners.

It will take “a good 60 days” to get ready, he said, then to let it out for bids. “Then things will move quickly,” he said, predicting that construction would get underway this summer.

The plan is to put Friend of the Court staff on the first floor of the Courts and Law Building in the space occupied by the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission and the public defender's office. Then those offices would move to the lower level.

Although space previously occupied by Michigan State University Extension, which moved to the Tyden Center, is technically vacant, Brown said, “we're in the process of emptying out the lower level and making it ready for construction … That's the space that all of our used equipment went to. We're now going to have to figure out what to do with it.”

The point people on the project are Court Administrator Ines Straube and commissioners Vivian Conner and Jon Smelker, Brown said.

Some parts of the project would incorporate a more open floor plan with a modular panel office system, he added. But areas that require confidentiality would be maintained.

Smelker said enhanced security measures, videoconferencing and video arraignments also were among technological considerations in making these upgrades.

The Friend of the Court building is in excellent shape, Brown said, and what will happen with that space has not yet been decided.

At one point, county officials had considered moving a portion of the health department into the FOC building, once it is vacant. But, since the building is not large enough to house the entire health department, Brown said, it's unlikely this idea would be feasible.




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