Estimates lower for annex renovation

Seneca County commissioners received several bids lower than the most recent projected cost for renovation of the Seneca County Courthouse Annex Tuesday morning.

The most recent estimate for the project received last month was about $648,000. The project is to include converting the courtrooms to operate efficiently as juvenile and probate courts, new paint and carpets, more efficient LED lighting and installing a server room that is to service the entire county.

With Seneca County Common Pleas Court judges Steve Shuff and Michael Kelbley and Clerk of Courts Jean Eckelberry preparing to move from the annex into the Seneca County Justice Center next month, Commissioner Shayne Thomas said the board hopes to make a decision next week on one of the four bids received.

Each bid includes estimates for four additional project commissioners are to consider if finances allow.

The bids received are:

• $318,000 base bid from RJ Runge Co. of Port Clinton. If all four alternates are included, the total bid is $546,360.

• $322,900 base bid from CSI Construction of Carey. If all four alternates are included, the total bid is $540,947.

• $313,700 base bid from Helms Construction Inc. of Findlay. If all four alternates are included, the total bid is $546,000.

• $285,000 base bid from Weithman Bros Inc. of Galion. If all four alternates are included, the total bid is $503,300.

Once renovations are complete at the annex, Seneca County Juvenile and Probate courts personnel are to move there from their current home at 108 Jefferson St.

In other business, Commissioner Holly Stacy said placement of the cupola and the Lady Justice statue atop the Seneca County Justice Center was successful.

“All of that went well,” she said. “I hear nothing but good things, people are pleased.”

Stacy thanked the Tiffin Historic Trust and the Seneca County Bar Association for raising funds for the statue.

Stacy also said furniture is scheduled to arrive the week of March 3 and she said officials still hope to have a lighting ceremony the evening of March 9 and an open house March 10.

She said she is finalizing the time capsule, which is to be placed in the building during the official ribbon-cutting ceremony. Stacy said the justice center leadership team plans the event for May.

In other news, Thomas said a countywide branding initiative is close to being finalized.

He said several ideas are under consideration, but the goal is to keep the county, the city and other organizations, such as Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. and Seneca Regional Planning Commission, under a brand that has continuity.

“It’s a big task,” he said. “We hope to have a decision by the 26th.”

Thomas said he hopes a decision can be made so the new brand can be incorporated into the justice center.

Also during the meeting, Thomas said commissioners must make changes in the board’s relationship with Seneca Regional Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Services. A recent opinion from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine states that county commissioners in Ohio may not serve on the board for their county’s visitor’s bureau.

Since the chamber serves as the county’s visitor’s bureau, Seneca County commissioners may not serve on the chamber’s board.

Commissioner Mike Kerschner said Thomas should continue to work with the county prosecutor on a resolution for the problem.

During new business, the board approved:

• The appointment of Franklin Hickman, of Hickman and Lowder Co., as special counsel for Seneca County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

• Setting 10 a.m. March 6 at the commissioners’ office for a hearing for the permanent maintenance of a county ditch.

• A contract with Vanguard-Sentinel Career and Technology Center for GED instruction services for Seneca County Jail inmates.

• A contract with Isaac, Wiles, Burkholder and Teetor for specialized legal counsel representing commissioners and the county Department of Job and Family Services.