TIFFIN - An architectural firm hired to design a new courthouse for Seneca County has given commissioners two preliminary floor plans - one that has 25,500 square feet on three floors and would cost an estimated $5.6 million and another that has an extra 7,650 square feet and a $6.7 million price tag.
Both plans include room for common pleas courts on the second and third floors. The clerk of courts would be located on a subbasement first floor with windows at ground level.
County Commissioner Ben Nutter, who presented the drawings to the board yesterday, said representatives of MKC Associates will go over the plans with the board at a yet-unscheduled meeting.
"These are very preliminary. They were just trying to give us an idea of what can fit," Mr. Nutter said.
Commissioners have the ability to borrow up to $5.6 million without getting voter approval - a budget Mr. Nutter said he wants to stay within.
Although the board had been set on demolishing the county's vacant 1884 courthouse and building its replacement on the same site, the location of the new courthouse is up in the air.
On Tuesday, commissioners are scheduled to meet a fourth time with Tiffin's Architectural Board of Review to continue looking at possible alternatives to demolition.
In June, the review board denied the county's application to demolish the landmark, saying it was incompatible with a city ordinance created to preserve historic architecture in downtown Tiffin.
Since that time, commissioners solicited and received bids from demolition contractors for leveling the old courthouse. MKC has recommended the county hire a Cleveland demolition firm which submitted the lowest bid, $365,000.
Both Mr. Nutter and Commissioner Dave Sauber said this week that they are prepared to award that contract next week unless they are presented with a concrete proposal for renovation of the courthouse by an outside entity on Tuesday. They also are waiting for written commitment from Gov. Ted Strickland's office about what type of assistance the state would provide for the courthouse project.
Franklin Conaway, a preservation consultant from Chillicothe, Ohio, is working on a report that would identify the best uses for the courthouse and identify what he called a "blue ribbon" entity that could invest in the project.
He told commissioners and review board at their last meeting July 17 that he had spoken with more than a dozen individuals and organizations that are interested in partnering to save the courthouse and convert it to new uses, ranging from a conference center to retail and restaurant space.
If such a plan proves feasible, the county could build a new court building on a different site, such as the former Columbian High School site downtown.
Mr. Conaway could not be reached for comment yesterday.