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Published: Saturday, 5/24/2008

Tiffin board to mull courthouse razing

TIFFIN - Seneca County Commissioners say the county isn't legally bound to get approval from the Tiffin Architectural Board of Review to tear down and replace the county's historic 1884 courthouse, but they plan to anyway.

"The commissioners want to be good neighbors, and they recognize where the courthouse is located," County Prosecutor Ken Egbert, Jr., said yesterday.

A number of residents sent letters this week to City Law Director Brent Howard asking that he obtain a court order to force the review board to do its job with regard to the courthouse.

"It is our understanding that the Seneca County commissioners have not filed an application and that they do not plan to file an application to obtain the required certificate of appropriateness before they are authorized by law to make any changes to the courthouse, specifically the sale of architectural features or demolition," the letter stated.

Mr. Howard did not return phone calls seeking comment yesterday, but Tiffin attorney John Barga said Mr. Howard told him that the prosecutor's office had assured him commissioners planned to apply for a "certificate of appropriateness" from the review board before they move forward with the courthouse project.

Mr. Barga, who supports preserving the old courthouse, said the letters were another attempt to try to save the downtown landmark from the wrecking ball.

"If they're going to demolish the courthouse, we want to insist that they follow the law," Mr. Barga said. "The law applies to everyone."

County Commissioner Ben Nutter dismissed Mr. Barga's letter on the topic as "more legal wrangling."

"His assertion is just more garbage. They're all false blank accusations - everything he's done so far," Mr. Nutter said. "It's ridiculous. He's in la-la land. We've talked about this in meetings before. We talked about it when we hired architects and engineers and specially mentioned the architectural review board.

"We want to be good neighbors and we want to do things the right way," Mr. Nutter said. "I know we're filling that out because I helped write a paragraph dealing with some of that stuff."

Mr. Barga represented six county residents who sued commissioners last year in an attempt to halt demolition plans. That suit was settled earlier this month when the plaintiffs agreed to drop their remaining claims and both sides agreed to pay their own legal fees and court costs.

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