County talks downtown parking

After some disagreement, Seneca County commissioners approved a parking plan for downtown Tiffin lots Tuesday morning.

The plan will designate some spaces in the Hanson lot on East Market Street, the Commissioners’ Office lot and the RTA Building parking lot for city and county employees, leaving the rest for public use.

At its Nov. 14 meeting, the board heard a recommendation from the joint parking committee. Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Steve Shuff, who chairs the committee, said the initial proposal was for the approximately 90 spots in the Hanson lot and the Commissioners’ Office lot to be reserved for government employees on weekdays during business hours.

Shuff said the RTA lot, which has about 49 spaces, would have been mostly open to the public.

Tuesday, Commissioner Shayne Thomas, who served on the parking committee, suggested designating spots in each lot for use by government workers and the public.

Thomas and Commissioner Holly Stacy voted to approve the plan while Commissioner Mike Kerschner voted against it.

Kerschner said he thought it was bad to go against what the parking committee recommended.

“They came to us with a recommendation and now we are rejecting the recommendation, which, I think, is a poor way to handle things,” he said.

Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz, also a member of the parking committee, said Thomas’ proposal is a “non-starter” for the city.

“Our lots will not be under consideration,” he said, adding that city lots would have been considered for improvements by the parking committee next if the initial proposal was approved.

Montz said walking from downtown lots to work for government employees does not take much time.

“If our employees can’t walk that far, we’re caving to special interests and putting government employees ahead of the public and helping out businesses,” he said.

Montz said he thinks the new plan is “wrong” and splitting lots could be confusing for residents.

Kerschner agreed and said having one lot designated for public parking would make more sense.

Thomas disagreed, saying lots could be less confusing because they will be repainted and color-coded.

Under the plan, government employees are to be given assigned, numbered spots in each lot and the rest will be available to the public.

All spaces are to be available to the public during non-business hours.

Thomas said there aren’t many differences between the plan that was approved and the committee’s recommendation.

He said the number of spaces designated for government workers and the public remains the same but are distributed differently.

Thomas said the initial plan would have closed two county lots to the public during business hours.

“With my plan, it frees up parking on Market Street,” he said. “I think it’s more fair to the businesses on Madison Street and on Market Street, instead of giving all the benefit to the Washington Street businesses.”

Thomas said there is no perfect solution, but he hopes the plan is a bridge to creating more parking.

“We’re willing to put the city employees in our lots, it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “We may need spots in city lots to be numbered for other people. That was the idea of having an overarching parking committee, to meet all the needs downtown.”

Montz was uncertain if the parking committee would continue to exist.

“There is no point in having a committee to thoroughly vet proposals if they aren’t going to be adopted,” he said.

Thomas said the plan would be implemented on a trial basis.

“We’ll see how it plays out,” he said.

The board previously discussed funding a study to examine long-term plans for parking, including construction of a parking garage. No decisions were made on a study Tuesday.

In other news, Shuff said the local courts received a $467,802 grant to fund start-up costs for the PIVOT Drug Recovery Court.

He said he and Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court Judge Mark Repp and Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Kelbley are going to combine their drug courts for the program. The program is the first in Ohio to combine municipal and common pleas court drug programs.

Shuff said combining resources and experience will save taxpayer money and could save lives in the fight against opioids.

“It’s exciting stuff,” he said. “It should help the community.”

Shuff said the courts have received three grants this year totaling more than $785,000.

In other business, commissioners agreed to transfer their former office, 81 Jefferson St., to the Seneca County Land Bank for demolition.

County Treasurer Damon Alt said the land bank is used to handle dilapidated and tax delinquent properties.

County documents housed in there must be removed within six months and demolition is to occur within one year.

Alt said preliminary plans have been made to develop a park on the property after demolition.

During new business, the board approved:

• A $25,000 supplemental appropriation to the General Fund.

• A $2,422.46 supplemental appropriation to the Dog Warden EPA Trust Fund.

• A $2,422.46 fund transfer to the Dog and Kennel Fund.

• A $22,329 appropriation adjustment to the M&R Fund.

• A $2,750 appropriation adjustment within the General Fund.

• A $30,616.94 supplemental decrease to the Soil and Water Fund.

• An agreement with Bloom-Scipio Joint Ambulance District on behalf of Seneca County EMS.

• The Airport Improvement Program pre-application to acquire land.

• The 2019-28 Airport Capital Improvement Plan.

• The purchase of a 2017 Ford Focus for Seneca County Youth Center.