With multiple appeals made on both sides of the issue to save the building, commissioners agreed to enter into contract for demolition of the 1884 courthouse.
Seneca County Commissioners Ben Nutter and Jeff Wagner agreed in a 2-1 vote for a contract with B&B Wrecking of Cleveland for demolition/salvage of the structure.
Commissioners also appropriated $373,000 for the project and rescinded two orders in support of renovation of the building from August 2009 and January 2011.
The contract with B&B was approved by Seneca County Prosecutor Derek DeVine and the company met the approval of engineering firm MKC Associates. Commissioners are to sign the contract after approval from B&B.Commissioner Dave Sauber voted against the matters, but began a conversation on whether the board would be interested in an option through the Seneca County Courthouse and Downtown Redevelopment Group to create a reserve account containing a year's debt service, about $280,000, which the county could draw on if it was unable to meet payments for a $5 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the biggest funding mechanism for renovation.
Nutter and Wagner said they were not interested.
"Quite frankly, the issue at hand becomes if we do not start the process of the USDA loan, it's going to go away; and we're not in a position we can," Nutter said. "And it's not this year, or next year, or even the year after that that we face the catastrophic budget issue, but five or 10 years down the road. So, I wouldn't entertain that option."
Sauber said he would be open to allowing private citizens to salvage materials from the building, however commissioners said they believed the contract for demolition included an option for salvage rights through B&B.
A number of attendees appealed to the board to reconsider their stance, some citing history and others with concerns over the demolition project.
Resident George Freeman said B&B has been involved in 15 complaints in Cuyahoga County, and has been accused of violations of the Toxic Substance Control Act from the Environmental Protection Agency. Commissioners said the company met the approval of MKC.
Resident Janet Dell Freeman asked if commissioners had done a title exam of the real property to see if they owned the property. The board said it was DeVine's opinion that there are no deterrents to demolition, but they are to check the title.
Some in the audience supported demolition, citing the apparent condition of the building and two failed ballot measures to levy taxes for renovation.
There is a potential for a taxpayer lawsuit from the redevelopment group to be filed against commissioners, claiming misappropriation of funds. David Carroll, legal aid for the redevelopment group, said his clients are exploring options as to whether they choose to file, but have taken the necessary steps to file a taxpayer suit.
In another matter, commissioners accepted bids for new juvenile detention center. Awards went to Studer-Obringer Inc. of New Washington for the general trades contract; Warner Mechanical Corp. of Fremont for the mechanical contract; Clouse Electric of Tiffin for the electrical contract; and Dalmatian Fire Inc. of Cincinnati for the fire suppression system contract.
Bids were above estimates, requiring an additional $130,000 for the $3 million project, which includes a $1.8 million Ohio Department of Youth Services grant. Commissioners said they favored moving forward, but Wagner said he wants more investigation to see if state can address the funding gap.
Commissioners also approved a fund transfer of $600,000 regarding the project.