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Seneca questioned over plan for lawn

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An empty lawn is all that is left in the space once occupied by the Seneca County Courthouse in Tiffin, Ohio.

The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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TIFFIN -- The proposed design for greenspace where the 1884 Seneca County courthouse once stood put one county commissioner on the defensive at Thursday's meeting.

After Commissioner Jeff Wagner announced that Tiffin City Councilman Brian Bilger, owner of Bilger's Lawn & Landscape, offered to submit a landscape design at no charge to the county, one citizen questioned the ethics of the commissioners' willingness to accept it.

"I would like to suggest the idea of landscaping be open to more than just one local landscaping company in case any others are interested in submitting a suggested plan," Seneca County resident Loretta Miller said. "Otherwise, it sounds like a back-door deal, a good-old-boys network."

Ms. Miller's comment riled Commissioner Dave Sauber.

"Back-door deals go on in a backroom, and this was all done in board session," Mr. Sauber said. "I haven't coaxed or urged anybody to do anything like that, so when you comment about back-door deals and we're discussing this in open board session, I'm sorry, but I sort of take offense to that."

County Administrator Stacy Wilson explained that three or four other local landscape companies had expressed an interest in submitting a design, but she said the owners "didn't know if they wanted to put the effort into it until we knew what we wanted."

"I was just wondering if everything has really been explored," Ms. Miller said.

Contacted after the meeting, Mr. Bilger said he offered to draft the landscape plan for free because "I love Tiffin. I just want to help keep the ball rolling. I offered to do it for free because I want to see something done."

He added that drafting the design does not mean his company will be hired to implement the project. Mr. Bilger stressed the plan -- which will be completed in one or two weeks -- will not be a waste of taxpayers' money.

His proposed green space will be minimal, particularly since a new courthouse might be built on that site in the future. At this point, he's welcoming ideas from local residents.

"I don't feel like this is just my design. It's everybody's," he said. "There are a lot of people who are hurting because the courthouse was taken down. We can't bring that building back, so let's try to make a good situation out of this and do something nice for the community."

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