In 2005, when I took office as a county commissioner, I pledged to make decisions based on what was most fiscally responsible for the residents of Seneca County, and I remain totally committed to that pledge.
Fact one: Removal of the 1884 courthouse and replacement with a building that complies with required Supreme Court standards would cost the taxpayers slightly less than $6 million. This amount is based on projections from the architectural firm of MKC and Associates of Mansfield. Its employees are professionals in courthouse design and construction.
Fact two: The renovation of the 1884 courthouse would cost taxpayers of Seneca County slightly more than $5 million and total project costs of slightly less than $8 million, with the difference being provided by private donations and grants. This amount is based on projections from the architectural firm of Schooley Caldwell Associates of Columbus. It should be noted that lead architect for this project, Bob Loversidge of Schooley Caldwell Associates, was the lead architect for the renovation of the Ohio Statehouse and the State of Ohio Supreme Court building which, by the way, came in ahead of schedule and under budget.
Fact three: Due to a favorable term and interest rate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (this particular loan would not be available for new construction), the yearly building expense would be around $270,000 per year. The commissioners also will set aside about $30,000 per year for long-term maintenance for the refurbished building.
Fact four: Due to a less-favorable term and interest rate and the need to borrow about $500,000 more than a renovation project, the yearly cost for a new building would be around $500,000 per year, and we still would need to save $30,000 per year for long-term maintenance to avoid similar problems in 50 years.
Fact five: Because of sound fiscal planning, including significant spending cuts and very disciplined budgeting principles, the general fund budget can withstand the $270,000 building expense without raising taxes. No matter what action the board of commissioners takes, it would be done without raising taxes.
Fact six: Since 2002, Seneca County voters have twice voted against a tax increase to address our court space issues, and we will honor those votes. The ballot language did not mention or in any way reference demolition of the 1884 courthouse. I have twice written articles publishing the ballot language of the past votes and this information is readily available at the commissioners' office and the board of elections. If there is one item I want to make perfectly clear, it is that the ballot language on all votes referenced raising taxes and not demolition. The public has asked us to address our issues within our current means, and this board of commissioners will do just that in the most cost-effective manner possible. I am convinced if we were to ask voters for a tax increase to build a new building, it would fail as well.
If you would like to read the actual ballot language of prior votes and see the renovation design, we are putting all the information we have, with reference to the courthouse, in one convenient location on our website.
Fact seven: Over a 20-year period, there is no significant difference in maintenance costs between the renovated courthouse and a new courthouse, according to a study completed by MKC and Associates.
Fact eight: Doing nothing and hoping for the best is not a strategy for success; in fact, hope is not a strategy at all. By not addressing the ADA accessibility and space issues facing the juvenile court, the county could be placed under a federal court order to comply with these standards at a cost significantly higher than the projected renovation. Just because we have not been sued yet doesn't mean it will not happen tomorrow, and that is not something I am willing to pass off to the next generation.
My mission as a county commissioner is, and has always been, to provide good government in the most cost-effective manner possible. If making sound, cost-effective decisions coincide with preserving our sense of cultural identity and historic preservation, that is fine; however, that is not my priority or mission.
I support the renovation project because it is the most cost-effective way to address our court space needs - period!
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Ben Nutter is a Seneca County commissioner