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Published: Friday, 1/18/2013

Joint courthouse deemed vital to downtown Tiffin, Seneca County

BY LISA SWICKARD
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE
In his first state of the city address, Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz, right, vowed to ensure a future city-county justice center in downtown Tiffin. In his first state of the city address, Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz, right, vowed to ensure a future city-county justice center in downtown Tiffin.
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TIFFIN — Shortly after taking the stage at the Ritz Theatre for his first state of the city address Thursday, Mayor Aaron Montz recapped his first year in office and vowed to instigate positive changes for a city that has muddled through some tough times.

One of the most aggressive changes was addressed by the mayor at the beginning of his speech: his determination to ensure a future joint city-county justice center in downtown Tiffin.

The idea is not new to him. Mr. Montz said that during his first year on Tiffin City Council in 2008, he and fellow councilman Rich Cline broached the subject of a joint center; their intent to join forces with the county to renovate the 1884-built courthouse.

“We were told it was a ridiculous idea, that it would never work. The previous administration said it was a logistical nightmare. We basically got a whipping in that meeting,” Mr. Montz recalled.

During his speech, he said “I really wish the idea could have been given its time, because I'm quite convinced that, had this come to fruition, the 1884 courthouse probably would stand today. In fact, with the city putting in funds, it could have made the burden much less for everyone.”

The courthouse was demolished in January, 2012.

During an interview before his speech, the mayor said he and the Seneca County commissioners are now discussing the cost-saving benefits of combining city and county offices into one, newly built facility downtown.

“It's not a question of whether we need a courthouse. It is essential that we have a courthouse and it has to be in downtown Tiffin. If not, it's going to suck the lifeblood out of the downtown,” Mr. Montz said. He added the Tiffin Municipal Court has lacked adequate security for years.

During his address, the youngest mayor in Tiffin's history at 27, admitted it hasn't been a particularly fun year, referring to such things as the loss of state funds, a failed income tax increase, and some employee layoffs. Mr. Montz said there have been positive changes, particularly with regard to cutting city expenses.

Over the course of a year, the mayor and City Administrator Debra Remer have saved the city nearly $500,000 through overtime and sick day policy changes, mandating that city employees pay a percentage of their insurance premiums, and renegotiating city contracts.

Before leaving the lectern, Mr. Montz vowed to continue to work tirelessly for the city.

“I hear it all over town and I just want to clear things up that I'm here to stay and get things fixed in city government here in Tiffin. One of the hot-button issues was that I was using this office as a stepping stone," the mayor said. "But the only thing I'm running for is re-election,” he said.

“I am going to stay here in this office until the people kick me out or until I feel that Tiffin is on the go again.”



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