The future of the Licking County courthouse is being planned by a group of county officials who want to meet the county's needs and ensure the historic courthouse is kept in good shape.

The future of the Licking County courthouse is being planned by a group of county officials who want to meet the county's needs and ensure the historic courthouse is kept in good shape.

"We need to do good planning," Licking County Commissioner Mark Van Buren said.

Van Buren said the historic courthouse, built in 1876, has drafty windows and other maintenance issues that should be addressed to keep the old building being used to its fullest extent.

That use also requires an updated security system, which could require people to use one entrance and run through a security system, Commissioner Doug Smith said.

"We may need to funnel the general public into one entrance and have them pass through a checkpoint," Smith said.

He said security upgrades are more in response to incidents that have occurred elsewhere.

"We're not expecting something to happen. But we want to be proactive," Smith said. "This enables us to control what comes in and things that are transported in.

"It's a level of security for the judges and for the general public. This provides for their safety."

The group includes all three commissioners -- Van Buren, Smith and Tim Bubb -- and courthouse judges and staff.

Smith said the county could have a plan in place by year's end to address maintenance issues and future growth issues associated with county court.

"We have a capital-improvements budget set aside for courthouse renovations," Smith said. "We need to look further into the future of the county's needs five to 15 years from now.

"The time is coming when we're going to meet the requirements for a third common-pleas courtroom and (another) municipal court judge."

Add to that the county's recent push to develop a records center and it's the makings of a new justice center, Smith said.

"We may need to think in terms of a justice center," he said. "We're limited by the structural configuration of the courthouse."

The judges on the committee agreed that the courthouse might not always fulfill the county's needs, Smith said.

An annex to the county administration building is a possibility, he said, but the committee will have to make recommendations on improvements or new facilities needed.

The county also is in the process of upgrading security at the administration building on Second Street by updating the keys used.

Van Buren said the county will get rid of all of its metal keys and instead begin using a card-reading system.

He said the system will help the county have better control over access to the building and individual departments.

"There are many keys to that building in the hands of folks who have not been involved with the county for several years," Smith said.

Van Buren said if an employee leaves the county, his key card could be changed immediately so the person no longer has access to the building.

Smith said the wiring for the system already is in place and locks are being replaced with keypads.

He estimated the change would cost the county about $60,000.

lwince@thisweeknews.com