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Published: Friday, 9/19/2008

Agency is willing to help with Seneca County courthouse

If a port authority is going to be involved with the renovation of Seneca County s 1884 courthouse, the local agency said it would be interested in filling that role.

In a 5-0 vote Wednesday, the board of directors for the Sandusky County-Seneca County-City of Tiffin Port Authority agreed to assist Seneca County commissioners with their plans for the courthouse whatever those plans ultimately may be.

I think what we wanted to make clear is if the commissioners would decide to renovate the courthouse, we could assist them in that score or if they would decide to build a new courthouse, we could still do the same thing, said Jim Supance, president of the port authority board.

Some residents seem to think the port authority is taking a side in what has been a controversial debate over what to do with the shuttered courthouse, but Mr. Supance insisted it was not.

We re just saying, if we can be of assistance, that s what we re here for, he said. If commissioners think we can help them, we will.

Jerry Arkebauer, president of Arkebauer & Associates, a Sylvania consulting firm for port authorities, met with the Tiffin-based port authority to gauge its interest in plans being developed for renovating the courthouse as a court building that would be leased to commissioners or as a building that could house other agencies or businesses.

He said having a port authority preferably the local one assume ownership of the courthouse could have several benefits for Seneca County.

The first reason is if the county does the project, it becomes debt of the county and the county has a limited debt capacity, he explained. The second reason is port authorities have a unique reputation around the state for doing good projects and getting the state of Ohio to provide significant participation beyond what they may do for others.

The recently formed Seneca County Courthouse Development Group, led by preservation consultant Franklin Conaway, has until Nov. 10 to come up with and present to the commissioners proposals for renovating the courthouse. Mr. Arkebauer, who retired in 2006 from the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, is working with the development group.

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