Courthouse has rich history and ornate architecture

T-L Photos/MIRANDA SEBROSKI ABOVE: The courthouse steps wrap around to create left and right pathways.

WOODSFIELD — The Monroe County Courthouse is hard to miss when driving through the village of Woodsfield.

The historic building is located at 101 N. Main St. on the town square in the county seat. It was constructed for $150,000 in 1908 and features designs of marble and oak in its hallways and a stained glass window on the third floor. After more than a century in operation, the courthouse often is an important destination for residents and plays a big role in how the county operates.

According to information from the Supreme Court of Ohio and the Ohio Judicial System, the courthouse was designed by Samuel Hannaford & Sons. The structure features Neoclassical style architecture and is constructed of red and yellow brick, which says were chosen to echo the autumn colors of the surrounding countryside. It features a large central dome made of brick, terra cotta and metal as well as a four-faced clock made by the Howard Clock Co. of New York. It is said to be one of the 10 largest clocks in the world, and at one time it was wound by hand. The building is the fourth courthouse in the county, as at least two previous buildings were destroyed by fire. The current courthouse structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Monroe County itself is named after James Monroe, who was secretary of war during the War of 1812, U.S. secretary of state under U.S. President James Madison and the fifth president of the United States.

Criminal and civil division courts exist in the county and hold sessions in the courthouse with Judge Jason Yoss presiding. The criminal division handles traffic cases and all misdemeanor criminal cases. The civil division handles complaints ranging up to $15,000 and small claims of up to $3,000, often consisting of eviction cases.

James Peters is the prosecutor, while Judge Julie Selmon presides over the court of common pleas, probate and juvenile division. the court’s duties consist of administration of estates, creation and supervision of guardianships, regulation of trusts, adoptions, marriage licenses, name changes, legitimization and mental illness. Beth Ann Rose is the Monroe County clerk of courts with Linda Hill in the legal division and Helena Ricer in the title division.

There is an adult probation office in the courthouse. The probation program there gives alternative options when the county court is sentencing a defendant. The court can place the defendant on probation rather than sentencing them to jail time. If a defendant violates probation, they can then be sentenced to jail.

Pandora Neuhart is the county auditor and has a location inside the courthouse. The auditor has to take responsibility for duties across all levels of county government. The auditor must account for the large sum of money received each year from tax proceeds and for payment of all county obligations, as well as distribution of tax dollars. Distributing motor vehicle license fees, gasoline taxes, estate taxes, fines and local funds is also the responsibility of the auditor.

Commissioners Tim Price, Carl Davis and Mick Schumacher take action in the courthouse each week during public meetings held at 9 a.m. on Mondays. They said they aim to make the county a place where residents will feel safe and enjoy living. The commissioners play a role in bringing in new businesses and industry into the community. They strive to create a positive environment for businesses by using tax incentives and infrastructure planning. Recently, county commissioners worked with Dale Seif, attorney with Seif and McNamee LLC,to find solutions to the opioid abuse problem in Monroe County as well as other places in the local region. The commissioners will also be further discussing the county’s animal shelter conditions with Audrey Lohrey, owner of Audies Angels. Lohrey has described the conditions as deplorable. This will take place at Monday’s commission meeting.

The courthouse has gone through several recent changes. In August, commissioners temporarily made the alley entrance the main entrance to the building. This decision was made following the shooting of Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. in Steubenville.

Monroe County Sheriff Charles Black and commissioners decided the alley entrance was not the best way to go, though. Black said the alleyway entrance is too secluded and that there are not enough people around that area if something were to happen. Black and commissioners are still coming to an agreement for revising the main entrance, but the courthouse did receive a walk-through body scanner and metal detecting scanner to supplement security once new procedures are established.