By RON CRAIG
When bids opened Tuesday for renovations to Seneca County’s Annex Building, the county commissioners were delightfully surprised.
The estimate for the total project was about $650,000, but the lowest bid was $503,300, more than 22 percent lower than expected. That bid, one of four received by the county, was from Weithman Brothers, Inc., a general contractor from Galion.
The other three bids ranged from $546,360 to $549,314, with two of the bids being only $360 apart.
Mike Kerschner, president of the board of commissioners, said the bids were welcome news for the county, which may be facing some costly projects later this year, including the purchase of voting equipment for the Seneca County Board of Elections.
“We try to be responsible with the taxpayers’ money,’ Kerschner told the Review Times after the commissioners’ weekly meeting, of which the bid opening was a part.
The total bids included a base bid and four alternate bids. The first alternate was for additional floor electrical boxes, and the second was for LED lighting fixtures for the entire building. The third alternate was for additional work for the computer networking room, and the fourth for stairwell flooring replacement.
Kerschner said the lower than expected bids may result in all four alternates being accepted, but a final decision will not come until at least next week, when commissioners are expected to vote on the issue.
The bids will now be turned over the county engineer’s office for an extensive review. That review will include checking to see if each bid includes all work requested and an investigation of other work performed by each bidder.
Officials will be reviewing past work performance by each bidder to make sure they have not defaulted in past projects, and to make sure their work was performed properly and to the satisfaction of the entities involved.
Because Ohio law allows public officials to accept the “lowest and best bid,” not just the lowest bid, the commissioners have the discretion to pick a bidder other Weithman.
A website for the Galion general contractor shows a portfolio of other projects completed by the company, including government buildings and private business structures.
The renovations are necessary to ready the annex for occupancy by the county’s probate and juvenile courts, after the common pleas court moves to the Justice Center.
A report on the ongoing construction of the Justice Center was provided by Commissioner Holly Stacy. She noted the cupola and Lady Justice statue have been raised atop the structure, and thanked Tiffin Historical Trust for assisting with fundraising efforts for the statue.
Furniture for the building is expected to arrive the first week of March, with a lighting ceremony slated for March 3 and an open house for March 10.
County Administrator Stacy Wilson said she had received a quote of $1,354 per door to replace the frosted glass doors to the courtrooms with wooden doors. Judges had expressed concern about distractions that may occur as people walk by and attempt to look through glass doors.
The additional expense for the doors, should they be replaced, is to be paid by the courts.
It was also noted a staging area will need to be established for the common pleas courts’ and Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court’s move to the Justice Center.
In other business, Commissioner Shayne Thomas gave an update on a branding project for the county that will allow a recognizable branding image of the county that is hoped to bolster economic development efforts.
“The project is moving along,” Thomas reported. “There are a number of things under consideration, and we hope to have a decision by the 26th (of February).”
Thomas also informed the board County Prosecutor Derek DeVine is looking into an Attorney General’s opinion that stipulates county commissioners may not hold a seat on a visitor’s bureau. The county commissioners now hold such a seat on the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Commissioner Holly Stacy said she would be attending a meeting in the evening during which she hopes to get more information on state funding assistance to purchase voting equipment needed by the county’s board of elections.
Stacy also talked about the possibility of the local OSU Extension Office hiring a second agent, specifically an agricultural education agent.
“This would not be your father’s agricultural agent,” Stacy said of such a position, adding the agent would focus on agricultural marketing development. It is possible the state may assist the county in paying the salary of the agent, she said.
The commissioners agreed to have Stacy follow through with the issue, given the importance agriculture has in the county.
A contract with Vanguard-Sentinel Career Center for the provision of GED instruction to inmates of the county jail was approved, as was the appointment of special counsel for the county’s Board of Developmental Disabilities.
The establishment of a budget stabilization fund was also approved by the board, and supplemental appropriations of $2.7 million and $200,000 were okayed for the Justice Center Construction Fund and the E-911 Fund, respectively.
An executive session lasting more than 30 minutes was conducted at the beginning of the meeting to discuss pending litigation, but no formal action on the issue was taken following that session.