A $2.1-million expansion to the Delaware Justice Center is on target to conclude within the first two months of 2009, city officials said last week.

A $2.1-million expansion to the Delaware Justice Center is on target to conclude within the first two months of 2009, city officials said last week.

Although the first expansion and renovation to Delaware's current headquarters for police and municipal court services was delayed by roughly a year, the light at the end of the project's 8,200-square-foot tunnel now appears to be gleaming.

That's according to city officials and the project's superintendent, Harry Hart of R.W. Setterlin Building Co., who last Wednesday led reporters and a handful of city employees on a tour of the expansion progress.

"We hope to be completely done in February," said Jackie Sobas, Delaware's human resources director and a co-manager of the project. "This is the maximum expansion for this building. When we're done, there will be no more expansion for this building."

The project began last spring after city officials spent more than a year trying to solicit bids approximating $1.7-million. When that couldn't be done, Delaware City Council last February authorized the city to spend up to $600,000 more to secure a construction company.

The project marks the first expansion and renovation to the Justice Center since it opened in 1992. Prior to the addition's construction, the building was 26,632 square feet.

The project was needed, city officials said, because the city's police and municipal court operations -- including the city prosecutor's and municipal clerk's offices -- had outgrown the existing facility.

Upon completion, co-manager Jerry Warner said, the expanded facility will have a new hearing room on the building's second floor, as well as an expanded clerk's office.

The city prosecutor's office will be relocated to the southeast side of the building, and the police department will receive new space for administrative offices, debriefing areas and interview rooms.

The front entrance to the building will change location, but not appearance.

"One of the most difficult aspects of the project was to maintain the integrity of the existing building," said Hart, who also is a Delaware resident. "We've tried to make it look like this all was built at one time."

Because the facility has remained open during construction, crews had to coordinate work around city business.

That has prolonged the project, which city officials had hoped would be finished this year.

Still, those officials are pleased with the progress of the project and hope it will serve the city's needs for the next 10 to 25 years.

They note that even with the increased costs, the expansion is cheaper than the amount the county wanted the city to contribute to a new courthouse.

Delaware County officials proposed that the city-run Delaware Municipal Court be included in a courthouse also housing the county's courts, prosecutor's office and clerk of court's offices.

The city's share would have been $9-million to $11.2-million.

Currently, the county's plans to build its own $51-million courts building remain in limbo as its lame-duck board of county commissioners have failed to persuade Delaware County auditor Todd Hanks to authorize financing for the project.

"They wanted us to (participate) for $9- or $10-million, but look at what we can do for $2-million," said Jim Moore, Delaware City Council's first-ward representative.

"We're going to have a very high-quality facility."

nellis@thisweeknews.com