Commissioners asked to consider use of space once occupied by courthouse.
TIFFIN -- The question surrounding the future of the courthouse lawn in downtown Tiffin has shifted from "What will be built?" to "What should be planted?"
On Thursday, Seneca County Commissioners were asked to consider incorporating plants that will act as a natural habitat for birds and butterflies.
Tia Rice, district program administrator for the Seneca County Soil and Water Conservation District, proposed making the courthouse lawn a WILD School Site learning lab for the Tiffin schools. A WILD School Site -- developed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife -- is property that is used by students, teachers, and the school community as a place to learn about the benefits of wildlife and the environment.
Ms. Rice told the commissioners she has until May 31 to apply for a $500 grant from the natural resources department for the program.
"It wouldn't change what you are having individual businesses bid on. What it would do is add habitat enhancements to what you have [in the proposed landscape designs]," she explained. "The plantings that are currently listed aren't necessarily always great for bringing in butterflies or birds. We would do natural habitat seeding that the grant would pay for.
"It's not anything that the commissioners would have to pay for."
Ms. Rice's proposal also would incorporate such things as birdhouses, signs, and possibly a watering site-rock garden into the landscape design. She stressed that the water conservation district would work in conjunction with the landscaper the commissioners select for the beautification project.
"We're not asking the landscapers to change [their designs]. We're just asking them to add a few things. We can work with them on those kinds of things," Ms. Rice said.
Although the commissioners said they were in favor of the proposal, they opted to wait until all the landscape proposals are submitted next week.
"I'd like to know how the landscapers feel this would blend in with what they are trying to do," Commissioner Jeff Wagner said. "We will open the landscaping proposals next Tuesday, so maybe we can ask the landscapers their opinion of it at that time. We've had enough glitches."
The "glitches" began last month, when two of three commissioners gave local landscaper and Tiffin City Councilman Brian Bilger the nod to landscape the former site of the 1884 courthouse for an estimated $10,000 after he submitted a design at no charge to the county.
That decision met with protests from two local landscapers who said they had not been given the opportunity to submit proposals because the job was not put out for bids.
In Seneca County, officials are not required to submit bids for jobs costing less than $25,000. In this instance, however, commissioners have decided to accept proposals for landscaping the courthouse lawn through Tuesday.
Ms. Rice said, "The WILD School Site would be a great way of utilizing the courthouse lawn as well as making it a learning lab. We would be making it an education center for the city of Tiffin. It's our way of helping the students and the community understand why backyard conservation is important."
Commissioner Dave Sauber said, "I think it would be really beneficial for what our purpose is.
Commissioner Ben Nutter agreed, saying, "I'm certainly in favor of pursuing some sort of educational opportunity that is done in conjunction with the landscaper that we select."