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Published: Wednesday, 3/5/2014

Justice center considered for Seneca County


TIFFIN -- A study released today examines building a new $8.5 million justice center to be shared by the City of Tiffin and Seneca County.

The $100,000, state-funded study commissioned by the North Central Ohio Regional Council of Governments looks at building a new justice center in downtown Tiffin, at the site of the 1884 Seneca County Courthouse demolished in 2012.

The study indicated that building separate county and city court buildings would cost about $9.4 million. The combined plan would save them $848,000 in construction costs, as well as an estimated $181,000 in annual operational savings from combining functions such as janitorial and security services, utility costs and other items.

Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz said $3.3 million up front in contributions from the county and city and court fees will fund part of the project, with the remaining balance likely to come from issued bonds.

The former courthouse was demolished after county commissioners voted 2-1 to raze it rather than pay for its renovation.

One renovation plan -- at a cost of nearly $8 million -- would have been paid for with a $5 million low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as funds from the Ohio Department of Development, Seneca County Common Pleas Court, the county, and private grants and donations.

Mayor Montz, who opposed the demolition of the county courthouse, said the new plan is the "best case" outcome, given the current situation.

"We all need to face the fact that it is gone, and nothing can bring it back," he said.

Officials said the proposed project would be the first in the state to be paid for and built by both a city and a county.

The study was completed by consultants Burgess and Niple of Cincinnati and Public Performance Partners of Columbus. It was released during a news conference today in Tiffin.

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