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TIFFIN — City Council has agreed to proceed with a $500,000 state loan application that could be spent on a proposed justice center shared by the city and Seneca County.
Council on Monday supported an application for a 10-year, no-interest loan, but county commissioners Tuesday decided to take more time before authorizing the North Central Ohio Regional Council of Governments to apply for the funding.
John Davoli, council of governments director, plans to return to the commissioners’ meeting next week to ask again for their approval before a Sept. 8 deadline for the state’s Local Government Innovation Fund loan program.
The city and county are mulling the recommendation of a state-funded study released in March. It advises the two work together to pay for and build an estimated $8.5 million facility to house the municipal court and common pleas courts at the downtown site of the former county courthouse, demolished in 2012.
No decision has been made regarding where or if to build a facility, but Mr. Davoli said applying for a loan doesn’t commit the city or county to spending that money. If the loan is granted, additional approvals would be required to spend the money, which could be used for engineering, design work, and other project costs.
Commissioner Fred Zoeller said supporting the application is a no-brainer. But despite assurances it wouldn’t commit the county to any expense or action, Commissioner Holly Stacy asked to delay a vote.
“It hasn’t been decided that this is a joint justice center yet, so I feel like I’ve got a cart in front of the horse,” she said.
Ms. Stacy serves on a committee that includes city and county representatives charged with examining details, including financing, of the proposed project. The group has met once so far, she said.
Decision-makers are also awaiting results of a privately funded study examining the feasibility of locating a justice center at the former East Junior High School, an alternative site suggested by its owner Andrew Kalnow.
Meanwhile, the county continues to develop guidelines for use of the courthouse lawn. Commissioners temporarily banned events from taking place at the grassy downtown site. On Tuesday, commissioners agreed to allow some weekend-only events, such as a free community movie screening Aug. 31, until it establishes rules regulating the size and scheduling of activities.