Officials eye new justice center

By JIM MAURER
STAFF WRITER
TIFFIN — The Seneca County Commissioners approved a resolution accepting a study which indicates a nearly $8.5 million justice center would benefit the city and county.
Commissioner Fred Zoeller said approval of the study, presented March 5 at North Central Ohio Educational Service Center, does not specify a location for the building, hire an architect or cause the commissioners to spend any money now. The study was funded with a $100,000 state grant received by the service center’s Council of Governments.
Burgess and Niple, a Columbus-based engineer/architect consultant, completed the study. Discussion has centered on constructing a building to house two county common pleas courts, the clerk of courts, Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court, and possibly other county offices. It would be funded by Tiffin, the county and the courts.
The county commissioners, county prosecutor Derek DeVine, and Tiffin personnel will meet to discuss the project. Fostoria personnel will be asked to attend, too, although the city will not have any financial obligation.
Zoeller said construction of a combined courts building would be the first in the state.
“It’s a monumental step to move forward,” he said, “and save the taxpayers money,” with the combined courts building. Fostoria will maintain a municipal court and office. Judge Mark Repp serves in Tiffin and Fostoria.
The courts and the commissioners have set money aside to assist with construction cost, but some funds will be borrowed for the project. No construction timeline has been determined. When the study was presented, it was mentioned construction may begin in the next two years. If the county property is utilized, the building would connect with the county annex building and have a shared heating/cooling system. The annex, where common pleas courts and the clerk of courts are located, would house county juvenile/probate court, which is located in the former public library building, which does not meet Americans with Disability Act guidelines.
A separate private study is being done at the site of a former junior high building on Jefferson Street, which has been mentioned as a possible construction site for the court structure, too.
The former county courthouse, constructed in 1884, was demolished in 2012 and the property seeded and landscaped.
Separately, the commissioners approved two bids from Erie Blacktop Inc., Sandusky for repaving parking lots at the commissioners office on Madison Avenue and the county services building on South Washington Street. The commissioners parking lot bid was about $73,995. It was estimated at $89,777. The county services building bid was $89,616 to repave the parking lot at the Seneca County Services Building, 71 S. Washington St., Tiffin. The project was estimated at $94,153.
Separately, the commissioners approved a motion to allow Big Springs and Clinton townships to contract with IGS Energy, Dublin, for natural gas aggregation. Township residents previously approved a ballot issue which allowed negotiations on a contract. The townships will buy natural gas as a group, which should save money.
Also, Seneca County Engineer Mark Zimmerman recommended vacating several undeveloped streets in the hamlet of West Lodi. The property is “a never used right-of-way” which is grass. The property is owned by the Seneca Park District.
There were no public comments about the issue and a resolution will be considered by the commissioners next week.
The commissioners will meet with Scipio Township and Republic personnel to discuss a joint emergency medical service district at 7:30 p.m. June 16 in Republic Town Hall.
Also, a meeting will be held at 11 a.m. June 3 in the commissioners office to discuss an information technology network for the county, Tiffin, and other organizations. It was funded by a $100,000 state grant received by the council of governments.
Zimmerman also will prepare bid specifications for paving several parking areas at the county fairgrounds so the commissioners can seek bids and determine how much they want to contribute. The Seneca Agricultural Society, also known as the fair board, owns the fairgrounds. The county owns the Public Safety Building, one of the areas to be paved.

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