2007-08-02 / Front Page

New courthouse 'symbol of liberty'

By Cheryl Holladay

RIBBON-CUTTING Roscommon County Commission Chairman Larry Mead (center) cuts the ceremonial ribbon on the county's new courthouse addition July 26. Pictured with him are (left to right) Commissioners Lowell Souder, Marc J. Milburn, Mead, Robert Schneider and Ed Nellist. (CHP) RIBBON-CUTTING Roscommon County Commission Chairman Larry Mead (center) cuts the ceremonial ribbon on the county's new courthouse addition July 26. Pictured with him are (left to right) Commissioners Lowell Souder, Marc J. Milburn, Mead, Robert Schneider and Ed Nellist. (CHP) 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.

CHIEF JUSTICE The Honorable Clifford W. Taylor, chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, was among the speakers at the July 26 open house dedicating Roscommon County's new courthouse. (Photos by Cheryl Holladay) CHIEF JUSTICE The Honorable Clifford W. Taylor, chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, was among the speakers at the July 26 open house dedicating Roscommon County's new courthouse. (Photos by Cheryl Holladay) 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.

FLAG-RAISING Members of VFW Posts 4159 and 4034 raise an American flag during the dedication ceremony July 26 at the Roscommon County Courthouse. Dr. David Hansen of Immanuel Baptist Church led the invocation. Following a ribbon-cutting, members of the public were welcomed inside for tours and refreshments. FLAG-RAISING Members of VFW Posts 4159 and 4034 raise an American flag during the dedication ceremony July 26 at the Roscommon County Courthouse. Dr. David Hansen of Immanuel Baptist Church led the invocation. Following a ribbon-cutting, members of the public were welcomed inside for tours and refreshments. Architect John Meyer, of Wigen, Tinknell & Meyer, said jovially, "When Ron Eno speaks everyone in Roscommon County listens." He said everyone in the building had a say in the design.

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.

'THE COLD MILE' (Left) One safety feature of the new construction is this long hallway connecting the Roscommon County Jail with the courtrooms, what Undersheriff' Randy Stevenson dubbed "the cold mile." (Right) The judge's bench in the new 34th Circuit courtroom was placed in the left corner, opposite the jury box. The new room features a lower ceiling, oak trim and warmer colors. 'THE COLD MILE' (Left) One safety feature of the new construction is this long hallway connecting the Roscommon County Jail with the courtrooms, what Undersheriff' Randy Stevenson dubbed "the cold mile." (Right) The judge's bench in the new 34th Circuit courtroom was placed in the left corner, opposite the jury box. The new room features a lower ceiling, oak trim and warmer colors. "It wasn't a question of if someone would get hurt, it was a question of when," he said. "[This] more than meets our needs."

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.

Bawol said the center takes about 70,000 calls per year.

Construction of the courthosue started in June 2006 and Eno said it will be completed under its $7 million budget.

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