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Published: 3/2/2013

Defiance Co. courthouse likely facing renovation

$2M set aside to fix once-doomed 1870s facility

BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Defiance County Courthouse, shown in 2000, lost much of its historical value, some say, when the top floor was remodeled years ago in a modern style. Defiance County Courthouse, shown in 2000, lost much of its historical value, some say, when the top floor was remodeled years ago in a modern style.
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DEFIANCE — Defiance County commissioners plan to pursue renovations to the county’s 1870s courthouse, once a wrecking ball target.

Two commissioners said their board should soon take up hiring an architect to draft a courthouse renovation plan.

There is no timeline, but officials have begun researching where they could temporarily move court operations during construction.

Officials want the project to address security, space, and technology issues.

A renovation also could include some exterior work to match and seal bricks, Commissioner James Harris said.

“In order to move forward, we have to control our cost, and the most feasible way [is] to renovate the current courthouse,” Mr. Harris said.

The exact scope and expense of any work has not been decided.

Mr. Harris estimated the project could cost $2 million to $4 million.

The county has set aside more than $2 million in a capital improvement fund that could help pay for work.

The downtown Defiance courthouse, which houses the county’s common pleas and juvenile and probate courts, was in danger of demolition in 2006.

Voters rejected a sales-tax increase that year to pay for tearing it down and building new quarters for courts and other county departments.

The historic 1884 Seneca County courthouse was demolished last year after a long fight to preserve it.

Defiance County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Jeffrey Strausbaugh said the Defiance courthouse needs extensive work on elevators, heating and electrical systems, and security and technology.

The building should be torn down and a new courthouse constructed because the old structure requires so much work, he said, arguing that previous remodeling efforts have destroyed its historic value.

But Judge Strausbaugh said he will respect and work with the commissioners’ decision regarding a potential renovation.

“I think it’s primarily boiled down to a dollars-and-cents approach more than anything,” he said.

“The commissioners have a job to do ...; we’ve always had a good working relationship.”

Commissioner Thomas Kime said an engineer checked the building’s foundation several years ago and found the structure to be solid.

Officials Friday visited the city of Defiance’s old municipal building to assess if it could temporarily house court operations during a renovation.

The fire and police departments use the old municipal building, but a second floor is vacant.

Defiance City Administrator Jeff Leonard said the city would be willing to “sit down and work out some arrangement” if the county is interested in the space.

Mr. Kime said noise and dust caused by construction would require the courts to relocate, but a move wouldn’t happen until all plans are made.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.



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