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Chime in on the Justice Center Questions

When the final decision was made to raze the 1884 Seneca County Courthouse, the county residents were not consulted. Now that discussions for a new joint Justice Center for Tiffin and Seneca County have commenced, it appears that history is repeating itself. In essence, the people who do the bulk of the living, dying, earning and taxpaying in this county — the middle-class residents — were again left out of the latest study concerning where and what type of building should be erected.

That is simply not acceptable.

Recently, there has been a renewed interest in transforming the stately former East Junior High building into the joint justice center, while keeping the green space on the old courthouse square for public use. It's doubtful the powers that be will entertain that notion unless county residents insist upon it.

In the coming weeks I will be posing a series of questions concerning the new Justice Center, it's location, design, etc. This is your chance to offer your opinions on the matter. I will forward all responses — without the names attached — to the appropriate parties.

Perhaps it's time to take a lesson from the people who renovated the Shawhan Hotel (see my previous blog post). Preserving and repurposing a courtly fortress like East Junior High may certainly be a valid option, and it is one that should be explored.

Whether or not you agree, all responses are vital. We want to hear what's on your mind. This time the public deserves a say in the matter. The courthouse fiasco presented us a painful, yet valuable lesson. We learned the hard way that if we sit by and say nothing, then we only have ourselves to blame for the regrets that are bound to follow.

Any and all responses are welcome. You can comment below; email your opinions to me at; or respond on the Seneca County Courthouse Book or Virgin Alley Press Facebook pages. You can also post a comment on my personal Facebook page or send me a private message there. Thank you in advance.

I will add questions to this blog post as they arise, so feel free to check back often.

Question #1

Does the public want a big, four-story box on the current green space where the Seneca County Courthouse once stood, or does the public want a functional green space to remain on old courthouse square in the heart of Tiffin and Seneca County?

The 164-page study, rendered by the architects commissioned by the city and county through a state grant, can be found at This report leaves many very important questions unanswered. Unless we the people start asking important questions and discussing this Justice Center project, we are in danger of being saddled with a modern financial burden based upon only part of the facts in the middle of a very important historic district.

Question #2

Available parking is a factor to be considered in the joint Justice Center site selection. Do you think the better parking option is the former Junior High School, which has land available for new parking spaces, or the proposed old Courthouse Square plan that does not provide any new parking spaces?

Currently, 160 of the available parking spaces identified in the Study — closest to the old Courthouse Square and the former Junior High School — are owned by the county, committed to county personnel and not available to the general public. Theses parking spaces do not favor either location.

Question #3

Jury rooms and the related facilities are very expensive. How may jury rooms does the Common Pleas Court need?

In 2012, an estimated 14 jury trials were conducted in the Court of Common Pleas. These trials required a jury room for a total of 33 days. In 2013, there were about 26 jury trials, requiring a jury room for 54 days.

Question #4

Are the people of Seneca County concerned about their heritage? Do you think citizens from Tiffin, Fostoria and the county villages should have been consulted for the latest feasibility study?

What do the people of Seneca County — not merely a small group of lawyers, judges, court staff and "collaborative partners" — have to say about their heritage and the financial burden about to be placed upon their backs with this proposed $8.5 million construction? Why wasn’t a larger cross-section of the people of Seneca County interviewed for the study? For example: Not one citizen or business owner from Tiffin or Fostoria, nor a single village official or township trustee was consulted. The agricultural community is parmount to this county's economy. Why were they not consulted? More than half of the population resides outside the city of Tiffin. Why was no one in the villages consulted? In other words, aside from the legal community, no one except representatives from both Heidelberg and Tiffin University was consulted. Perhaps it's time to stop allowing the "Good Old Boy's Network" total control of our future.

There is an alternative to the $8.5 million lackluster building proposed in the study. The former East Junior High School — originally built as Columbian High School (named to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's discovery of America) — is probably the single most important, and recognizable, historical building in all of Seneca County. The cornerstone was laid by the Grand Masons in 1893.

The two Seneca County Commissioners who voted to destroy the historic heart of downtown Tiffin are no longer in the mix. One was soundly defeated when seeking re-election and the other has chosen not to run for re-election.


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