Council OKs building buy 4-3-1

In 12 years as Tiffin City Council president, Paul Elchert never cast a vote until Monday night’s decision on whether the city should purchase the property at 25 E. Market St.

Elchert, who votes only to break a tie, was the deciding vote to approve the city buying the property by a vote of 4-3-1.

“I can see both sides of the story,” he said. “However, to keep the city moving in the positive direction that it has been, I will be voting yes.”

Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. signed an agreement to purchase what was formerly the Stalsworth and Pryzm hotel along with the warehouse behind it, which was the Nightmare Within Haunted House, for $120,000.

The city will use money from its Venture Capital Fund to buy the property.

“When that property is brought down, I am very confident that we will see business development in that area very soon,” Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz said. “I think we have prime real estate, a lot of potential with the city.”

Montz said Venture Capital Fund money cannot be used for streets, police, fireworks or other services the city has had to cut back.

“It’s money that continues to deteriorate and lose value because of the low interest rates we’re receiving,” he said. “It really is doing no good sitting in the bank and constantly not have anything happen.”

Several residents voiced opinions on the property purchase.

Doug Dunlap said he was concerned about putting city funds into purchasing the property and tearing down the buildings, while streets went unplowed during the winter.

Councilman Joe Hartzell, Councilwoman Lori Ritzler and Councilman Tyler Shuff voted against purchasing the property, and said the main problem is not buying the property, but coming up with money to tear down the buildings.

“This money doesn’t grow on trees, folks,” Hartzell said. “We’ve got to come up with some kind of creative way to get $100,000. And with the way our budget is today, I don’t see a creative way to do it.”

Ritzler said she voted no because the lodging tax and the Internet cafe money, which is expected to be used to help tear down the buildings, are part of the city’s General Fund. And she said Karen Bowers of SIEDC said there is no guarantee that Community Block Development Grant funds will not be available next year.

“The citizens very clearly turned down a tax levy,” she said. “We had to go on Facebook to get money for our fireworks. I cannot, in good conscious, take $100,000 out of the city budget.”

Tiffin resident and local business owner Joe Obringer voiced support for the city buying the property, and asked council to think about the negative longterm effects leaving the buildings up would have on the city.

Rob Huntington, who said he was speaking principally as a member of the community and secondarily as the chairman of SIEDC, also said he supports the property purchase.

He said it would “improve the historic downtown by both restoring the old and attracting the new.”

Rich Focht, president and CEO of SIEDC, and Theresa Sullivan, downtown manager of Tiffin Tomorrow, also voiced support for the city to buy the property.

Councilman Mark Hayes, along with Councilman Rich Cline, Councilman Brian Bilger and Elchert, voted yes to buy the property, and said it would be a good way for the city to use the Sandusky River as an asset.

Councilman Jim Roberts abstained from discussion and voting on purchasing the property due to conflict of interest.