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Published: Saturday, 5/31/2008

Expedited courthouse ruling sought

TIFFIN - Saying demolition of the 1884 Seneca County Courthouse was on a fast track, six county residents trying to save the landmark yesterday asked the Ohio Supreme Court to expedite its ruling on their request for an injunction.

Tiffin attorney John Barga, who is representing the group, said he and his clients became concerned after learning that pieces of the courthouse were being removed.

In April, they asked the Supreme Court for an injunction barring the county commissioners from razing the building, but so far the court has not responded.

"I'm afraid that if they don't at least consider the application for the injunction, the commissioners are moving full speed ahead and they don't have any intentions to stop unless the court directs them to stop," Mr. Barga said.

He wrote in his motion for an expedited ruling that the county:

#149; Advertised last week a public auction set for next Thursday in which it plans to sell items from the old courthouse.

#149; Filed an application earlier this week with the city's Board of Architectural Review seeking approval to demolish the building.

#149; Already has removed several fixtures and artifacts from inside the courthouse.

"The [commissioners] are proceeding with the demolition of the 1884 Seneca County Courthouse on a fast track, before this Supreme Court has had an opportunity to consider the merits of this case," Mr. Barga wrote.

The Supreme Court has not said whether it would hear the plaintiffs' case.

They are asking the court to consider the case because, they say, it is of public interest not only for Seneca County but for all 88 Ohio counties.

They contend state law doesn't give county commissioners the authority to demolish a courthouse and that the Seneca County board did not obtain expert advice and explore all options before deciding to raze the courthouse.

Judges at both the common pleas and appellate level rejected both those claims.

The commissioners said Thursday that the only fixtures that have been removed from the courthouse were taken to the Seneca County Museum at the request of the museum director.

The commissioners previously asked the museum director to determine what should be saved from the building for historic purposes.

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