Seneca County's Wagner embraces justice center

Commissioner suggests delay to raise cash

3/26/2014
BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
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Seneca County commissioner Jeff Wagner.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky

Seneca County commissioner Jeff Wagner.
Seneca County commissioner Jeff Wagner.

TIFFIN — Seneca County Commissioner Jeff Wagner expressed interest Tuesday in a proposed justice center to serve Tiffin and county courts but wants to save more money before construction starts.

City and county officials have yet to make any decisions regarding a $100,000, state-funded study that calls for the city and county to build a justice center on the site of the Seneca County Courthouse, razed in 2012.

County commissioners discussed the proposal during a meeting at which Mr. Wagner indicated support for the concept and advised construction wait a few years.

“I love the idea of a joint city-county ventur\e. I think that’s absolutely the way to go,” he said. “Any project we do has to make sense numbers-wise.”

Mr. Wagner voted to tear down the 1884 courthouse. His term expires at the end of the year, and he’s not seeking re-election.

The study estimates the city and county could build a new justice center to house the municipal court and common pleas courts for an estimated $8.5 million. The county would cover about 75 percent of the cost for the new structure.

The county saved $700,000 in a courthouse fund so far, an amount Mr. Wagner said could grow to $2.45 million if it continues to save for five years. That, combined with court fees to be contributed to the project, would require the county to borrow slightly more than $2 million if it waits until 2018 to build, with debt payments starting in 2019, Mr. Wagner said.

The county’s current debt service is about $600,000 a year. It will drop to $140,000 a year in 2019, he said.

Commissioner Fred Zoeller said the project becomes more expensive each year it construction is delayed because of escalating building costs.

Last week, the owner of the former East Junior High School, located across the street from the old courthouse site, indicated interest in seeing it be renovated into a justice center. Mr. Wagner did not address that possibility.

Tiffin City Council is to discuss the study April 7. Mayor Aaron Montz said the meeting’s purpose is to discuss the study and not to decide where the building will go or a construction timeline.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.