Beverly Ernst of Delta, Ohio, a trustee for the Fulton County Historical Society, looks at plans for the Museum & Welcome Center of Fulton County, Ohio. The multiuse building will promote local history in a much larger space than the county’s current museum.
WAUSEON — Several officials involved in a groundbreaking ceremony Monday for a $2 million shared-use facility said they envision it as a new model for blending local, county, and state services.
They’re hoping the upcoming Ohio Department of Transportation garage and Fulton County museum-visitors bureau will provide services more efficiently — not just in keeping snow and ice off roads or in promoting local history, but also for emergency operations.
The project, being built over the next year on 13.7 acres of county-owned land that lies a half-mile north of the Ohio Turnpike, also will be used to house a Wauseon ambulance and fire truck, as well as substations being maintained by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and the Ohio Highway Patrol.
It also will be the site of the county’s next emergency operations center that coordinates response activities to disasters coordinated by the county’s emergency management agency and hospital runs by its emergency medical services.
The goal is to reduce response times to emergencies, especially in rural areas, said Bill Rufenacht, president of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.
The project is believed to be the first of its kind in Ohio.
The largest part will be a 21,000-square-foot Ohio Department of Transportation garage and two support buildings for salt trucks and supplies.
Rendering of the project which is scheduled for completion in December 2016. The rear building is for ODOT and law enforcement; the front left building is the museum and welcome center. The building at right is the Robert Fulton building, extant.
It is to take up 11 acres of the project’s 13.7 acres.
Hiram Crabtree, business administration director for ODOT’s northwest Ohio district, called the project “a fantastic opportunity for collaboration.”
The other main feature will be the county’s first-ever history museum and visitors bureau, the Museum & Welcome Center of Fulton County, Ohio. It will be operated by the Fulton County Historical Society and be a place to tell Fulton County’s story and promote tourism.
“We’ve really not had a way — except with our county fair — to show off what we’ve got,” Mr. Rufenacht said.
John Swearingen, Jr., Fulton County Historical Society director, said county artifacts have been on display in a small house. But rooms are so small there that most cannot accommodate more than six people at a time.
When the new museum and welcome center opens, the historical society will be able to do programs for school groups and larger groups of visitors, he said.
The museum will feature a timeline around its perimeter, showing Fulton County’s history with Native Americans, in the Civil War, in World War II, and other eras, Mr. Swearingen said.
“It’s America’s story from a local perspective,” he said.
The sprawling campus will be developed on county land adjacent to the Robert Fulton Building, 8770 State Rt. 108.
“We know Fulton County values its heritage. I’m a former history teacher myself,” said Ohio Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green), who worked with Ohio Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township) to secure a $1 million state grant to cover half of the costs. The county is covering the other half.
Individual tiles made from photos of "a person or group of people who live/work or have lived/worked in Fulton County, Ohio" will create a photomural for a wall in the museum lobby.
Plans for the shared multiuse facility “just really came together about as well as any project I’ve been involved in,” Mr. Gardner said.
Ms. Sears said it is a “unique project” that’s logical and a conservative use of tax dollars.
“I think it’s a model for the rest of the state,” she said.
ODOT was interested because it needed to replace a facility built in 1954. The new one will be three times the size of the existing one, which is 7,200 square feet.
Construction begins in January. The project is expected to take 10 months to build, Toni Schindler, Fulton County marketing and communications director, said.
More than a storage facility for salt trucks or a facility for emergency services, the center will be “a location for potential investors to visit,” she said.
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