New courthouse 'symbol of liberty'
Roscommon County Commissioners joined county judges, members of the Roscommon County Sheriff's Department and the public July 26 in the dedication of the new courthouse addition to the county building.
Commission Chairman Larry Mead said he could not thank everyone enough.
"This is your facility," he said. "This is for you, the people."
On hand for the celebration were Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Clifford Taylor, as well as former Probate Court judges Corky Gaylor and James Rutledge.
Justice Taylor said a courthouse is a "symbol of liberty" and serves to offer peaceful resolutions of disputes.
Upon entering the building, visitors will see tile floors in neutral colors and partially tiled walls in accenting colors. Two main hallways divide the building, with the District Court, Friend of the Court offices and prosecuting attorney's office to the right and Central Filing, Probate, Probation and Central Dispatch offices to the left.
The new structure houses circuit, district and probate courtrooms, all similar in design and style. The stark atmosphere of the old circuit courtroom has been replaced with a lower ceiling, oak trim and warm wall colors, and the judge's bench is in the left-hand corner, no longer directly facing the doors. The new courtroom has two sets of double doors, as does the district courtroom. The probate courtroom has much more seating than the former room Roscommon County Probate Judge Douglas Dosson used to hear estate and divorce cases.
Roland "Ron" Eno, construction coordinator and county equalization director, said the courthouse addition took teamwork.
Undersheriff Randy Stevenson said the new facility is a "technical world away from the one we used."
To improve security, visitors must pass through a metal detector and have loose articles pass through an x-ray machine. Criminal defendants are kept separate from witnesses and jurors by what Stevenson refers to as "the cold mile," a long hallway that connects the jail to the courtrooms.
Judge Michael Baumgartner, chief judge of the 34th Circuit (which covers Roscommon and Ogemaw Counties), commented on the former courthouse and how recent incidents at other courthouses prompted the need for increased security.
Judge Dosson gave his perspective as someone who hears most of the volatile cases, including divorce, child custody and personal protection orders.
"No one is more appreciative of this new building than myself and my staff," he said.
In the new Central Dispatch center, 911 Director John Bawol gave tours to small groups to showcase a state-of-the-art facility.
Because dispatchers work 12 hour shifts, each desk is ergonomically designed; the computer screens and keyboard desks automatically adjust to the height of the dispatcher. Bullet-resistant glass and cement walls add to the safety of the room, and soundproofing on the interior walls makes phone calls easier to hear.
Construction of the courthosue started in June 2006 and Eno said it will be completed under its $7 million budget.