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Published: Friday, 6/30/2006

Seneca County reviews study of court and office needs

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TIFFIN Seneca County commissioners are analyzing results of a study detailing the amount of space they ll need in the next 15 years in eight county-owned buildings, including the costs to replace, renovate, or add on to the courthouse.

Because the county s courthouse is 122 years old, commissioners have been discussing whether it s worth renovating.

The discussions led to questions regarding the amount of space other county buildings and departments will need over the next 15 years, Commissioner Joe Schock said.

To get a better idea of which direction to move, the commissioners contracted with DLZ Ohio Inc., a Columbus engineering firm, which was paid $15,000 to create a document detailing the county departments needs, said Manoj Sethi, DLZ executive vice president.

The study focuses on the Seneca County Courthouse, 103 South Washington St., and seven other buildings in Tiffin that house county offices, including the courthouse annex, the RTA Building, the County Services Building, the commissioners building, the former Carnegie Library, the maintenance building, and the former county engineer s office.

DLZ recently presented the commissioners with the results of the study and said the county is short about 20,000 square feet of space.

To remedy that problem, DLZ came up with five options commissioners could approve that could cost between $4.9 million and $25 million. The most expensive option involves demolishing the courthouse and building a new government center, which is something Mr. Schock said is not financially feasible.

This is not a recommendation, Mr. Sethi said of the study. These are options that can be mixed and matched. It s what they feel is best for the county.

In May, 2002, county voters rejected a $7 million renovation plan, which was to be funded by a 0.5 percent sales tax. Less than two years later, the county moved the Common Pleas Courts and the Clerk of Courts office into an annex next door, which was built for $3.1 million.

Since then, the courthouse has been vacant, except for records storage and the Seneca County Law Library on the fourth floor.

Mr. Schock said the commissioners are taking the study under advisement and have asked for some feedback from other county officials.

This is a decision that s going to affect the rest of Seneca County for many generations to come, he said. My wish is whatever decision we make would be to provide enough additional space even if it s not utilized at the present time so if there is a need a few years from now, we don t have to go out and build another addition.

Contact Erika Ray at: eray@theblade.com or 419-724-6088.



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