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Seneca County ‘tops out’ courthouse project

New Justice Center to replace building that was razed in 2012

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    Construction workers place a beam with a tree and American flag attached during a ‘Topping Out Ceremony’ at the Justice Center of Seneca County in Tiffin, Ohio.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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    Seneca County Commissioner Mike Kerschner signs a construction beam during a ‘Topping Out Ceremony’ at the Justice Center being built at the site of the courthouse that was razed in 2012.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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    People gather and watch the ‘Topping Out Ceremony’ marking a milestone in the custruction of the Justice Center of Seneca County.

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TIFFIN — The hoisting and installation of a white steel beam atop the new courthouse in Seneca County marked a new milestone in the project.

Public officials and residents gathered on Court Street in downtown Tiffin Tuesday for a topping out ceremony of the Justice Center of Seneca County, the nearly $15 million project that is being built at the site of the former Seneca County Courthouse.

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Seneca County Commissioner Mike Kerschner signs a construction beam during a ‘Topping Out Ceremony’ at the Justice Center being built at the site of the courthouse that was razed in 2012.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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The 1884, Beaux Arts-style courthouse was razed in 2012, despite community and area protests.

Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz said he didn’t realize the four-story, 36,000-square foot courthouse would feel as big or imposing as it does. While the building is being constructed, he called on community leaders to work together to find ways of keeping people out of the criminal justice system.

“It is my hope that now that this building is being completed, we can start healing wounds,” he said, noting past dissent about the demolition.

The historic courthouse was designed by the famous 19th-century architect Elijah Myers, who also designed the historic state capitols in Lansing and in Austin.

Before its demolition, advocates for saving Tiffin’s historic county courthouse secured estimates that it would cost from $30 million to $60 million to build the 1884 courthouse with the same materials using current costs and labor rates.

Construction crews on Tuesday hoisted a final, white steel beam to the top of the justice center, with a small tree and American flag brought up with it. The topping out ceremony comes from Scandinavian tradition, said Lane Brubaker, superintendent of Gilbane Building Co.

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People gather and watch the ‘Topping Out Ceremony’ marking a milestone in the custruction of the Justice Center of Seneca County.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Enlarge | Buy This Image

The flag was from the family of Paul James Hoerig, a World War II veteran from Tiffin. The flag covered his coffin at his 2008 funeral, and his family donated it to the county so  it could fly prominently in the community.

Mary Ann Remsberg, one of Mr. Hoerig’s children, said her family was immensely proud that his flag was hoisted to the top of the burgeoning courthouse.

“What an honor,” she said. “It’s just hard to find words.”

Once complete, the courthouse will house the Tiffin Municipal Court, Seneca County Court of Common Pleas, and the Clerk of Courts and title offices for Seneca County.

Holly Stacy, president of the Seneca County Commissioners, said the project is about 50 percent completed, with the steel skeleton now done. With the installation of that beam, construction of the courthouse hit a milestone.

“All the major steel work is done,” Ms. Stacy said.

Up next, crews will start building the exterior and brickwork, and construct the roof. Mechanical work has begun on the first two floors, and the top two are next, Ms. Stacy said.

It feels good to see the project finally come to fruition, she said.

“This project has been talked about for decades,” Ms. Stacy said.

A ceremony for the raising of the cupola — which will rest atop the clock tower and is meant to be reminiscent of the 1884 courthouse’s cupola — will be held in July. 

Once installed, the courthouse should be 151 feet at its tallest point.

Walking tours are scheduled for June 10, with a time for the tours to be determined.

When commissioners were considering razing the old courthouse, preservationists estimated that renovations to the building would cost about $8 million.

Replacement of the courthouse was once pegged at about $10 million, but costs escalated as the project was formalized, with the budget set at nearly $15 million in the fall.

Those cost increases are done, Ms. Stacy said, because the county has a guaranteed maximum price from its construction manager.

“That price was set in stone,” Ms. Stacy said.

County officials said they hope to occupy the courthouse in November.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.

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