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Published: 12/30/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Courthouse's destiny sealed

Commission gives final 'no' regarding preservation

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Dave Sauber Dave Sauber
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TIFFIN -- After again hearing pleas to stop demolition of Seneca County's 1884 courthouse Thursday, Commissioner Dave Sauber looked to his left and right.

"I'll just ask the board," Mr. Sauber said to fellow commissioners Ben Nutter and Jeff Wagner. "Is there any support to want to delay this removal?"

Mr. Nutter and Mr. Wagner shook their heads ''no'' without another word. Both have supported razing the downtown landmark, while Mr. Sauber has stood firm against demolition -- not so much because of the building's architectural and historic significance but because he does not think the county can afford the $373,000 price to tear it down.

Mr. Sauber told the board he had been contacted by Lenny Clouse, president of Clouse Construction in New Riegel, to see whether commissioners were interested in saving any architectural features from the 1884 courthouse that could be incorporated into a new court building -- if and when one is built.

Mr. Nutter said he too had talked with Mr. Clouse but did not think it was possible to save archways or stairs based on the way the demolition contract was written. The contract with B&B Wrecking and Excavating of Cleveland gives B&B the salvage rights to the building.

If the county did save some features of the building, Mr. Nutter added, "We'd have to preserve it and find a place to put it and figure out how to put it back together. I'm not sure that it's cost-effective."

Jeff Wagner Jeff Wagner
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The board has asked B&B to save the cornerstone and 2,000 bricks. Several items from inside the courthouse also were removed and transferred to the Seneca County Museum in 2008 when commissioners last planned to demolish the courthouse.

In a letter about demolition that was to have been delivered Thursday, businesses and residents surrounding the courthouse were told that B&B would be hauling stone and masonry from the courthouse to the Seneca County Engineer's garage on State Rt. 100 south of Tiffin.

Contacted after the meeting, Seneca County Engineer Mark Zimmerman said he called B&B about a week and a half ago to see if his office could get the stone to use on road and bridge projects in the county. It seemed a better solution than taking the material to a landfill, he said.

He estimates his office will get some 4,000 tons of stone. While the engineer's office will pay B&B $2 per ton to grind the stone, it will save the time and fuel required to purchase stone from a quarry.

"They will do all the hauling," Mr. Zimmerman said. "This is a short haul compared to the landfill in Fostoria. They're ecstatic about it. I'm ecstatic about it."

He added that if B&B delivers enough large-sized pieces of sandstone, he will try to use them "to build a bridge out of the courthouse."

Demolition is scheduled to begin Tuesday despite preservationists' best efforts to save the structure.

A last-ditch appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court to halt demolition was rejected last week, and the taxpayers who filed the suit said they would not pursue the litigation because they could not prevail in time to save the building.

Ben Nutter Ben Nutter
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Commissioners agreed Thursday that they would not try to recoup legal fees from the plaintiffs at the recommendation of County Prosecutor Derek DeVine. It would likely cost more to go after the fees than the fees themselves "because of the quick resolution" of the lawsuit, Mr. Nutter said.

Also Thursday, commissioners approved 2012 appropriations that included a general fund of $14.1 million.

The board also agreed to delay for a year charging the Seneca County Health Department rent for its office space in the County Services Building on South Washington Street in downtown Tiffin.

Health Commissioner Marjorie Broadhead appeared before commissioners to ask them to reconsider charging the health department rent. She said the board of health already had approved its 2012 budget when she was informed Tuesday that it would be charged $20,000 for rent next year and increasing amounts in subsequent years.

"To come to the health district, literally days before the beginning of the year, and inform us that we will now have to pay rent in 2012 is poor decision making," she said. "…We had no warning or earlier notification or discussions with the county commissioners regarding this change in practice."

Ms. Broadhead said the health department would be forced to cut services or employees or increase fees to the public to make up the difference.

While Mr. Nutter suggested an agreement could be worked out in the first quarter of the year, both Mr. Sauber and Mr. Wagner said they felt they owed it to the health department to wait until 2013 to begin charging rent.

"I'll take the blame for being late," Mr. Wagner said. "We had talked about this some time ago, and I could've come to you right then, and I did not and I apologize."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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