Set in stone

Commissioners ready for cornerstone installation

Seneca County commissioners gave a brief update on the Seneca County Justice Center and installation of Lady Justice Tuesday morning.

Commissioner Holly Stacy said the next event at the justice center site is to be a cornerstone-setting at 5 p.m. Friday. The Masons will be running the ceremony and the grandmaster of Ohio is to lead the event, she said. Masonic lodges from across the state have been invited.

Stacy said the ceremony will coincide with Heritage Festival festivities.

“Make sure to give yourself time to find parking downtown Friday,” she said.

Stacy said the cupola is to be installed before the statue of Lady Justice is placed on it and Commissioner Shayne Thomas said the board should set a timeline for fundraising.

Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Steve Shuff said $10,000-$12,000 has been privately raised for Lady Justice and no money will come from the General Fund. The judges’ special projects fund also is to help pay for the statue.

Commissioner Mike Kerschner said the statue was “being bronzed as we speak.”

In other business, Seneca County Museum Director Tonia Hoffert updated commissioners on the museum.

She said April 1-Aug. 31, the museum had 298 walk-in guests from 16 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, Russia, England and Italy.

Hoffert said nine volunteers have worked 1,050 hours since April. She said the museum has completed 850 inventory sheets this year and 624 have been added since March.

In other news, Mircea Handru, executive director of Mental Health and Recovery Service Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties, said a decision on a Targeted Community Alternatives to Prison agreement was due back to the state Tuesday evening.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction program aims to supervise, treat and provide resources for nonviolent, non-mandatory and non-sex offenders who are convicted of fifth-degree felonies as an alternative to a prison sentence.

The board discussed whether the agreement would be beneficial.

“The state’s motive for doing this is to reduce their prison population,” Thomas said. “Anytime the state’s trying to solve their problems on our back, I’m suspicious of the motives.”

Thomas said he wondered if the agreement was the best decision for the long-term.

Shuff said the General Assembly approved a law that banned judges from sending fifth-degree felony offenders to prison starting July 1. He said he doesn’t see that changing because the prison population is high and it is costly to build more prisons and have more guards.

“What they’re doing is taking a low-level felony — a felony of the fifth-degree, nonviolent, usually drug-related, lower offense — and saying, ‘You take care of it at a local level and we’ll give you some money to do that,'” Shuff said. “That doesn’t tie our hands. We can still send them to prison but the funding gets reduced.”

Kerschner said what impressed him most about

T-CAP is judges get $120,000 and Seneca County Sheriff’s Office get $120,000 to be used at their discretion for programs they think work best for the community.

Shuff said the problem will be looked at from a community standpoint to see what works best. 

“To not take these monies that are being offered, I don’t think that would be a wise decision,” he said. “This is a wise decision. We will handle the opiate situation on lower-grade felonies, users and not usually sellers, and handle it locally.”

Kerschner said there isn’t one solution to the opioid problem and this is an attempt to do something different.

The resolution was approved, with Thomas as the lone dissenter. 

In new business, commissioners approved:

• A $7,500 appropriation to the Capital Projects Fund.

• A $50,000 supplemental appropriation to the General Fund.

• A $1,449.10 supplemental appropriation to the Real Estate Assessment Fund.

• The amounts and rates for necessary tax levies and certifying them to the county auditor.