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Published: Tuesday, 6/8/2010

Commission OKs plan to obtain funds, hires architect for Seneca County Courthouse


TIFFIN - Seneca County commissioners yesterday took two more steps forward in the process of saving the county's once-threatened 1884 courthouse.

In unanimous votes, the board adopted an ongoing services agreement with the Seneca County Courthouse and Downtown Redevelopment Group to head up planning and arranging financing for the courthouse renovation project and agreed to hire Schooley Caldwell Associates of Columbus as architect for the project.

Commissioner Ben Nutter said neither resolution will cost the county any money at this point.

"We need to have an architect in place in order to obtain USDA funding," Mr. Nutter said. "Some people might wonder why we're choosing an architect when we don't have the funding for a project right now - it's all about trying to get the funding."

Franklin Conaway, who heads up the development group, said he submitted an extensive funding application to the Ohio Department of Development a week ago and is "wrapping up" the application for the U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.

Under the group's nearly $8 million proposal to restore the vacant courthouse, the county would be responsible for slightly more than $6.5 million of the cost. Its share is to include a low-interest loan and grant from the USDA as well as funds from the Ohio Department of Development, the county's court system, and from the county.

The development group has promised to raise the remaining $1.45 million through a capital campaign. Mr. Conaway said it's necessary to get the county's financial commitment in place before seeking outside funding.

"We're very happy that the county's share is nearly in place. That's the biggest dollar amount ... and that will allow us to focus on the capital campaign," he said.

The ongoing services agreement approved yesterday states that reimbursement to the development group for contractors, engineers, architects, and other direct expenses is contingent on the group confirming Seneca County's ability to financially undertake the project.

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