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A Tribute To Justice

Commemorating the Seneca County Justice Center and courthouses past

A special publication of



The journey to construction 2 A history of Seneca County courthouses 7 Pictures and local columns Inside





Ribbon-cutting marks end of a journey 2 – The Advertiser-Tribune, Tiffin, Ohio Thursday, May 17, 2018

A look back


Staff Writer

Nearly two years after the first shovel hit the dirt, Seneca County officials are ready to cut the ribbon today on a 36,000-square-foot justice center facility. The Seneca County Justice Center, which hosts Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court, Seneca County Common Pleas Court and Seneca County Clerk of Courts, is the first court in the state to host multiple jurisdictions in one building. The court opened in March. In February 2015, county, City of Tiffin and judicial officials agreed to build the justice center on the site of the former 1884 courthouse, which was demolished in 2012. According to a county release, the justice center project made significant progress in 2015, including the establishment of a leadership team with county, city and judicial representation. A cooperative agreement and a management agreement were signed by representatives of Seneca County and the city of Tiffin and three companies were hired for the project. Seneca County Commissioner Holly Stacy said Quandel Construction Group was named the owner’s representative, Silling Associates was named the architect-engineer and Gilbane Building Company was named the construction manager atrisk on the project. Quandel was removed from the project in November 2016 because they no longer were needed, officials decided. The Seneca County Justice Center Leadership Team began meeting in 2015 and had monthly meetings until construction was completed. Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz stressed in 2015 the importance of having the leadership team structure. “As the project moves forward it is imperative that we have a clear communication plan so that cost-effective decisions can be made,” he said at the time. “We will have representatives from all three entities designated so that when decisions are needed they do not cause a delay, which in turn would cost us time and money.” According to information from a November 2016 meeting, the initial construction cost for the building was expected to be about $12.8 million, with soft costs — which included architectural, engineering, financing and legal fees — adding about $2.6 million to the bill. At that meeting, officials said furniture, fixtures and equipment cost also could add to the cost. Seneca County Administrator Stacy Wilson said Tuesday the final anticipated cost of the new building was about $15.5 million. This includes all costs associated with the center, including furniture, fixtures and equipment, architect fees, material testing, bonding, advertising, attorney fees, owner's representative fees, sidewalks, lighting, lady justice, audiovisual and other equipment costs. In April 2016, Tiffin’s Architectural Board of Review approved the justice center design, which was presented by Tom Potts, president of Silling. The approval followed affirmative votes from Tiffin City Council and Seneca County Board of Commissioners. Potts said one of the project’s challenges was to create a building made with modern materials to serve contemporary needs that has a sense of historical significance. “If you try to duplicate or replicate an historic building, then it’s Disneyland,” he said at the ABR meeting. “It isn’t authentic unto itself. This is 2017, and what you’re doing is, you’re using modern materials and you’re trying to walk this line of being able to make a modern statement and an historic statement at the same time.” He said the project ought to be an important building in the community. “It is a courthouse,” Potts said. “It cries for monumentality.” ABR member Mark Steinmetz said some in the community still were angry about demolition of the 1884 Seneca County Courthouse and they might not be happy with attempts to recapture elements of that courthouse in the new facility.

In this photo, courtesy of Seneca County Museum, the 1884 courthouse is shown in about 1903.


Above and right, photos show the Seneca County Justice Center during the construction phase.

“To me, that courthouse was extremely special, and when it went down, we did one of the dumbest things we’ve ever done. To put something up to mimic it, to even have it in the same location, in some ways to some people, is sacrilegious,” he said. Seneca County Commissioner Mike Kerschner said he understood Steinmetz’s point but felt that it was important to acknowledge the 1884 building. “The reason that we’ve done some of the things that we’ve talked about doing is to try to stir that memory again, or at least keep it somewhat alive,” Kerschner said, adding he hoped construction of the new courthouse could initiate a “healing process.” Local historian John Huss, who served on the design committee for the new building, was impressed with the design from the moment he saw it. “When somebody showed that to me, I went, ‘Wow,’” he said. “I was so impressed.” Huss and other exterior design committee members were responsible for some of the design ideas used. He said the fourth-floor mansard roof was among ideas he initially envisioned. A groundbreaking ceremony, attended by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith French, was July 22, 2016, marking the end of the planning phase. The construction phase started July 25, 2016. With no major issues reported during construction, a topping off ceremony occurred in April 2017. Lane Brubaker, of Gilbane, said the modern topping-out ceremony honors the trades of the people who build the facility. The ceremony includes placing a tree, a symbol of good luck, on the final steel beam set on top of the building. The beam also honors the country with an American flag. Kerschner said the event was a “major milestone” for the project and in the county’s history. Stacy said the flag placed atop the building during the ceremony was donated by the family of Paul James Hoerig, a World War II Army veteran. Hoerig, a Tiffin resident, was represented at the ceremony by his four surviving children, Mary Ann Remsburg, Robert Hoerig, Linda Crum and Cindy Sifred. Pearl Hoerig died in 2008 and the flag once covered his coffin. Montz said residents were witnessing history. “The last courthouse was built in 1884, so this doesn’t happen often,” he said at the time. An open house then was held in June 2017. Hundreds of residents attended the event to see the inside of the building before major interior work was completed by contractors. Another milestone was reached in September 2017, as the Ohio Ma-

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sons joined elected officials from Seneca County and Tiffin for a cornerstone-laying ceremony. Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Steve Shuff opened the ceremony for the building. “This building will serve not only this generation but many more,” he said at the event. Shuff said the building will serve as a reminder of the blessings of freedom in the United States. Grand Master of Ohio Masons Doug Kaylor said the cornerstone ceremony is an ancient tradition that only can be performed by Masons. During the ceremony, Masons exposed the cornerstone to corn, wine and oil. “(The justice center) serves as a timeless symbol of your hopes and dreams, for your community and surrounding areas,” Kaylor said. Kaylor said the cornerstone ceremony is a tradition that unites the community with other Americans. He said the corn, wine and oil also were exposed to the cornerstone of the White House, the US Capitol and the Ohio Statehouse. Seneca County Commissioner Shayne Thomas concluded the ceremony by saying many in the community had worked to make the location, known as Courthouse Square, a better place. “As a community, we have become better through the process that has brought us here today,” he said. “We are more engaged, focused and proud.” Thomas said the community had turned the page from a more divisive time, when residents were at odds over the fate of the 1884 Seneca County Courthouse. In February, the building’s cupola tower and a statue of Lady Justice were placed atop the building. Lady Justice is an 11-foot-tall, 2,500-pound solid bronze statue that was partially funded by private donations. On March 9, residents gathered to view the justice center’s “stateof-the-art” LED multi-colored lighting system that illuminates the cupola tower. Thomas said the color of the lights can be changed by a computer to a “virtually unlimited” number of combinations. The colors could be changed based on the time of year, such as pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month or red, white and blue for Independence Day. The next day, nearly 800 residents toured the building during an open house that took place before any sensitive information or equipment was moved into the building. The courts began moving in after the open house and the first jury trial was held in Shuff’s court March 26-27. Today’s ribbon-cutting ceremony also includes a time capsule ceremony which is to be filled with flash drives of videos and other

A Tribute To Justice is a special publication of The A-T Original reporting by Jimmy Flint, government reporter Section editor is Nick Dutro, Sunday editor


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1822 — Josiah Hedges builds a building on what is now Court Street in Tiffin, the second floor of which serves as a court for six years. 1828 — A Methodist Episcopal church, at what is now 20 E. Market St., is used as the county court. 1835 — Construction begins on the first county courthouse, located on what today is Courthouse Square in downtown Tiffin. The architect is John Baugher, and the building cost about $9,500 in 1835 dollars. August 1836 — The first county courthouse opens. May 1841 — The courthouse burns down, in what is believed to be an arson. July 1841 — Work begins to rebuild the courthouse. 1866 — An addition is constructed on the county courthouse. It was completed in 1867 for about $7,661 in 1867 dollars. 1882 — Planning begins for construction of a new county courthouse. October 1883 — The 1841 courthouse is demolished. 1884 — A cornerstone ceremony takes place for the new courthouse. November 1885 — The 1884 Seneca County Courthouse is furnished and operational. It cost about $214,000 in 1885 dollars. 1943 — The original castiron clock tower, after a few years of problems, is removed and replaced with a new clock tower. The metal is scrapped In this photo, courtesy of for weapons and equipment Seneca County Museum, for World War II. the 1884 courthouse is 1963 — A master plan for downtown Tiffin is published, shown in 1943 shortly besuggesting the courthouse be moved to another location and fore the clock tower had to a parking structure be built on be removed. Courthouse Square. 2001 — The county-owned Hanson building burns down. The building held a teen center, and the county had been trying to sell it. 2002 — Using money from a settlement after the Hanson fire, Seneca County commissioners begin construction of the Courthouse Annex. May 7, 2002 — A 10-year, 0.25-percent sales tax that would have generated about $1 million annually failed at the ballot box. The funds were intended to be used to repair and re-open the 1884 courthouse. May 6, 2003 — Voters reject a 0.5-percent increase, also intended for courthouse repairs. 2004 — Seneca County Common Pleas Courts, Seneca County Clerk of Courts and the county title office move to the Annex, closing the 1884 courthouse. August 2006 — Seneca County Board of Commissioners make first vote to demolish the building. The vote would usher in about six years of legal and political battles before a final decision was made. March 2008 — A vote to increase the countyʼs bond capacity to obtain funds for renovation of the 1884 courtIn this photo, courtesy of house fails. Seneca County Museum, January 2010 — The county is approved for a $5 the 1884 courthouse is million loan from the U.S. Deshown after the original partment of Agriculture and clock tower was replaced other state and local grants are made available. This leads in 1943. to a 3-0 vote Jan. 6 by commissioners to approve renovation of the courthouse. November 2010 — After Gov. John Kasichʼs budget is released, commissioners are concerned with debt service costs of the renovation project and rescind the courthouse resolution. Nov. 17, 2011 — Commissioners Ben Nutter and Jeff Wagner outnumber Commissioner Dave Sauber and vote to demolish the 1884 courthouse. A $373,000 bid is accepted from B&B Wrecking of Cleveland. Jan. 9, 2012 — Demolition begins on the 1884 Seneca County Courthouse. February 2015 — Seneca County, Tiffin and judicial officials agree to build a combined justice center. A group of representatives from the three entities combined into the Seneca County Justice Center A group of Masons leads a procesLeadership Team sion to the Seneca County Justice that gathered for monthly meetings Center before a cornerstone-laying until completion of ceremony in September 2017. the building. April 2016 — Tiffin Architectural Board of Review approves the design for the Seneca County Justice Center. July 22, 2016 — A groundbreaking ceremony for the Seneca County Justice Center occurs. It is attended by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith French. July 25, 2016 — Construction begins. June 2017 — With construction in full swing, the public is invited to an open house. September 2017 — Ohio Masons join elected officials for a cornerstone-laying ceremony. February 2018 — The cupola tower and statue of Lady Justice are placed atop the building. March 9, 2018 — Residents gather to view the buildingʼs LED lighting system. March 26, 2018 — Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Steve Shuff presides over the first jury trial at the justice center. May 17, 2018 — A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the justice center and placing of the time capsule is to occur.

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Steve C. Shuff Reflections

“The end is in the beginning and lies far ahead.”

— Ralph Ellison

That quote reminds me of the long journey for proper and adequate housing for all the Seneca County courts, which would recognize and inspire respect for the law. This article is not a complete litany of all events on that journey but, instead, is some of the highlights. The journey may have started in 1962 when a “save the downtown area” committee proposed dismantling the 1884 courthouse and moving it “stone by stone” to a new location. Ten years later, in 1972, Judge Harry Bozarth in a newspaper interview cited overcrowding as the primary need for a new courthouse. With the creation of a second common pleas court judgeship in 1986, the need for adequate court facilities was even more dire and was, again, presented to county commissioners. Nothing was done at that time and Judge

Spellerberg built a courtroom in the basement floor of the 1884 courthouse. This courtroom was described as completely Shuff inadequate. The Advertiser-Tribune, in its editorial of Jan. 10, 1999, suggested any county master plan should consider a new courthouse. In 2001, a Courthouse Planning Committee was created by the county commissioners. After studying the situation, the committee recommended:



The Advertiser-Tribune, Tiffin, Ohio Thursday, May 17, 2018 – 3

Center suggested commencement of a joint justice center feasibility study partnership. The tax levy was placed on Tiffin City Councilman Rich the ballot and the voters of Cline had previously suggested Seneca County did not pass the a combined city-county courts levy. building. It was decided that the In its editorial Jan. 15, 2002, justice center would house the The Advertiser-Tribune conTiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court, cluded, “Seneca County needs both common pleas courts and to fix its court facilities, and the clerk of courts. A partnersoon.” Following the above ship group was created and it 2001 committee recommendamet numerous times over two tions, the annex to the courtyears, working on the design, house was completed in 2004 location, size and cost for a joint and soon the courthouse was va- justice center. cant and ready for renovation Then the Seneca County Jussince the common pleas court tice Center Leadership Team reand clerk of courts moved to placed the feasibility study their temporary quarters at the partnership to finalize location, annex. But nothing was done for design, size and cost for a com1) The Hanson building insurover eight years. No renovation bined county/city justice center. ance monies be used to build a of the 1884 courthouse was un- An outstanding collaborative courthouse annex next to courtdertaken. Then in 2012, the spirit between county officials, house; county commissioners decided city officials, judges and others 2) The annex be the interim lohelped guide the final planning. cation for the common pleas court to demolish the 1884 courthouse. It seemed like the end of A groundbreaking ceremony ocand the clerk of courts; the journey for proper and ade- curred in July 2016. Many, 3) The courthouse be renoquate court facilities. many people were instrumental vated to contain a common pleas But in 2013, Seneca County in providing time, advice, leadcourt on each of the second and Commissioner Fred Zoeller and ership and support for this histhird floors and a clerk of courtsʼ office on the first floor; Dr. Jim Lahoski of North Centoric project. Several people 4) Primary funding for the tral Ohio Educational Service deserve special praise. Fred courthouse project be handled by a temporary quarter-percent sales tax to be placed on the ballot.

Michael P. Kelbley


Mark Repp’s message and signature on the final steel beam before it was placed on top of the building in April 2017.

Mark Repp

I have been asked to write a few words relating to the building and upcoming dedication of the Seneca County Justice Center. For me, it is hard to think about this momentous event without thinking of the impact of the courthouse on the generations of my family that have been born, lived and died here in our special part of the world. In 1847, my great-great-grandfather, John Repp, brought his family to Seneca County. He came with his family from Pennsylvania in hopes of buying land and starting a new life. Since that time, six generations of my family have used our courthouse for all manner of events — land deeds, lawsuits, divorces, marriage licenses and probated wills. The second courthouse (built in 1843) and the third courthouse (built in 1884) occupied the most prominent location in Seneca County, and has been the focal point for our civic life. Thousands of Seneca Countians have flocked to the courthouse and adjoining public square to watch parades, greet presidential candidates and attend farmers markets since the first one was built in 1834. Each succeeding courthouse structure was an improvement upon the old. The Seneca County Justice Center will be the fourth courthouse the located on Washington and Market streets. The construction of the Seneca County Justice Center opens a new chapter in our civic life. The combined justice building provides opportunities for the Seneca County Common Pleas Courts, Juvenile and Probate Court and the Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court to more effectively and better serve our community. Judge Michael P. Kelbley, Judge Steve C. Shuff, Judge Jay Meyer and I have worked diligently in saving for and planning a structure that will be accessible, functional and be the focal point for our community. The justice center is a landmark for Ohio — the only jointly owned county/city justice facility in the state, the first combined common pleas/municipal court drug court in the state, along with plans for combined jury pools and combined probation departments. We are only now starting to explore all the possibilities in which the courts can better serve our community and be more efficient. For me, the Seneca County Justice Center has instilled a new sense of pride in our community. The demolition of the third Seneca County courthouse left a bitter taste in the mouths of many. It was an extremely divisive issue, and I feared that our community would not be able to recover from the rifts that it created. The building of the Seneca County Justice Center has helped to heal our community. Throughout this process, all manner of Seneca Countians have had to set aside their egos in order to accomplish this task. Seneca County Board of Commissioners, Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz and Tiffin City Council, county and municipal judges and other elected officials have worked together in order to accomplish this task. From the beginning, the Tiffin Historic Trust members, Architectural Board of Review and other concerned citizens have been involved in designing and building a structure worthy of our downtown. I truly believe that the Seneca County Justice Center will be a structure that we can be proud of for generations to come. Repp is Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court judge.

We are unique in the world. Whether you are rich or poor, white or black, Christian or atheist — when you come into a center of justice you are treated equally. In the United States of America, everyone deserves a fair shake. That is what the Seneca County Justice Center is all about. The building is truly unique. It will very shortly house probate, juvenile, municipal and common pleas courts and, just as important, the clerks of each of the courts. The essence of a justice center is the justice that takes place inside; a part of that is the building itself. Our new Seneca County Justice Center incorporates both. In a few short months, the Seneca County Probate and Juvenile Court system will be joining the two general jurisdiction common pleas courts, the Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court and the Seneca County Clerk of Courts. Whether it is obtaining a marriage license or probating a will, everyone will come to the Seneca County Justice Center. Whether it is paying a speeding ticket or a juvenile traffic offender, everyone will come to the justice center. Whether it is an adoption or a divorce, everyone will come to the justice center. While the finishing touches are being put into place, one thing remains the same — a secure place to resolve legal issues. Unlike other times, safeguarding the safety of those who come to 103 E. Market St. is paramount. Security begins and ends with people. We can feel fortunate the Seneca County Sheriff’s officers are here. The equipment is state-of-the-art


Shuff is a Seneca County common pleas court judge.


Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Kelbley speaks to residents during an open house at Seneca County Justice Center March 10. County Administrator Stacy Wilson said 755 people toured the justice center that day.

and the officers well trained. Those in custody are kept in very secure areas. In short, regardless of your reason for coming here, you will be protected and safe. As I reflect on the finished product I cannot help but remember all the time spent in planning. I had the privilege of working as a core team member with Commissioner Holly Stacy and Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz. It was a very long and arduous process. Since I was right next door, my view was amongst the best. I got to see many trucks haul the old fill out and finally the pouring of the first concrete. There were a lot of people who kept asking me, “Why is it taking so long?” As a resident of the fourth floor, I had a keen interest in making sure the foundation was good. One of the things I remember my dad doing when he poured concrete was to put a quar-

ter in the concrete. I am not sure why, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt. So I gave the workers a shiny Sacagawea dollar to throw in as the concrete was being poured — so far so good. Quickly, at least to me, the steel was being erected and topped off. My recollection is the topping off ceremony was rather emotional. And now we are in. I have shared with the jurors who have served with me my reflections on the new justice center. First and foremost is every juror from 1884 to 2018 and beyond will have the same job — listen to the evidence, apply the law and make the hard decisions. That has never changed and never will. The building may change, but never the justice.

Kelbley is a Seneca County common pleas court judge.


Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith French speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony July 22, 2016, on Courthouse Square.

Jay A. Meyer

Officer Michael Moore of Tiffin Police Department testifies during Cyle Carter’s trial in Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Steve Shuff’s courtroom March 26.

Zoeller, Mike Kerschner, Judge Mark Repp, Judge Michael Kelbley, Judge Jay Meyer, Sheriff Bill Eckelberry, Jean Eckelberry and Dr. Jim Lahoski went above and beyond “the call of duty.” The Seneca County Justice Center is now in use. It has truly been an historic endeavor. Seneca County may be the only county in Ohio where all the courts are at one location. George Bernard Shaw said, “We are made wise not by recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for the future.” It is now our duty and obligation to take care of the new justice center and keep it maintained, repaired and functional for us and for future generations. The journey for adequate housing of all the Seneca County courts is nearly complete. But the journey will continue in other areas as the courts work cooperatively to enhance respect, trust and understanding of the law and for the rule of the law.

It is truly an exciting time to live and work in Seneca County. We at the Seneca County Juvenile and Probate Court are ready to embark upon a new era as we move Meyer into the new justice center in just a few short months! I am confident our renovated facility, located directly adjacent and connected to the new common pleas court general division, will provide us with the resources needed to better serve our community. As many of our constituents know, juvenile and probate courts have been located in the old

Carnegie Library on Jefferson Street for many years. While a beautiful and well-known historic landmark in Tiffin, the building lacked necessary space and handicap accessibility to properly serve our public. Our renovated facility will position our court to enhance court services and make court processes more convenient and accessible to all. Residents visiting our new location will notice many enhancements which include, but are not limited to: handicap accessibility to all floors and all services provided by the court; appropriately sized court rooms with updated technology and seating for all participants; a dedicated genealogy room; dedicated office space for the Public Guardian Program; private conference rooms for attorneys and their clients; convenient office space and meeting rooms for our probation, community

service and programming staff; jury trial capability; better sound proofing and climate control; and enhanced security. Our new space will also offer much-needed space dedicated to our mediation and diversion programs. It has certainly been my honor and privilege to be a part of our community’s history at such an exciting time. The court is grateful for the support of our community and we appreciate the Seneca County Board of Commissioners’ willingness to work with the juvenile and probate court to ensure our new space addresses all of our current needs, as well as positions us to effectively address future needs. We look forward to moving in and welcoming the public later this year.

Meyer is the Seneca County juvenile and probate court judge.

4 – The Advertiser-Tribune, Tiffin, Ohio Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Advertiser-Tribune, Tiffin, Ohio Thursday, May 17, 2018 – 5

The Seneca County Justice Center is photographed May 8.


John E. Huss

missioner Holly Stacy, Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz, Councilman My interest in historic preserva- Rich Focht, Judge Michael Kelbtion began about the same time as ley and John Davoli, were asked to describe in one word the proposed the centennial building. Shuff said “traditional”; birthday of Huss, “dignified”; Stacy, “supeSeneca’s hisrior”; Repp, “inspirational”; and toric 1884 Behm believed it should “complecourthouse. ment” the annex. Everyone recogSoon I became nized a clock tower’s importance. intrigued by The committee first examined that structure’s historic courthouses in Ohio, and architecture previous proposals with everything and history. from classical to stark modern deLittle could I sign. Intense discussion focused on know that one Huss the building’s site placement, but day I would be part of the process that completely everyone favored a square footprint on a centerline with the transformed the public square. annex, flag poles and the 1884 It began in 2001 with demolition of the 1877 jail and designing courthouse, while maximizing green space. Montz wanted the of the annex while working for CME architects. Soon the battle to building to face Washington Street, “Save Our Courthouse” erupted, a but Shuff favored a Market Street fight that ended Jan. 9, 2012, with entrance. The group vetted whether to center the tower on the roof or the wrecking ball’s first strike. Many preservationists gave up, but place it on the front. I felt strongly I realized the importance of assist- that the annex be subordinate to ing in the creation of Seneca’s new the new courthouse, and the two not match but be complementary. generation courthouse. Designers talk with drawings, The Justice Center Exterior Deand at the next meeting I presented sign Committee first met April 17, 2015. To quote Judge Steve Shuff: a concept sketch titled “Clean Modern Lines on a Classical “Thank you for being part of the largest project in downtown Tiffin Form,” showing a four-story, Mansard-roofed building with two in the last 100 years!!!” The group’s members, consistidentical fronts and the main door ing of Shuff, John Huss, Judge on Market Street, with a corner Mark Repp, Karen Behm, Comtower facing the Gibson statue.

The group liked the concept and asked to see more detail. The Mansard roof reduced the main building’s visual height, and was inspired by other historic courthouses, Tiffin’s City Hall, the former downtown YMCA building and the former Shawhan Hotel demolished in 1904. May 15, the group reviewed the first preliminary design. Montz said “I’m good with it.” Shuff and Kelbley suggested a “grander” entrance. The judges decided to obtain a preliminary cost estimate to determine the tower’s feasibility. As news of the rendering spread, prospective architects contacted committee members in hopes of seeing the design, but it would not be released without formal acceptance. In September, Tom Potts of Silling architects asked me to tour the public square with his design team and share the committee’s ideas; primarily that it be the tallest building in the immediate downtown area and respect the historic district but not copy the 1884 courthouse. I wanted to hear their thoughts because often people who are not natives of a community see important features that the “locals” just take for granted. The committee finally decided to increase the tower’s height after comparing the proposed design to


This image shows an artist rendering presented in July 2016 by John Huss, of John E. Huss Designs, who served as a member of the Seneca County Justice Center Leadership Team’s exterior design committee.

scale drawings of all buildings surrounding the square including East Tower. Oct. 14, the interior and exterior committees unanimously approved the final exterior rendering. Meanwhile, commissioners formed the Justice Center Leadership Team to begin the selection of an architectural firm. Clearly, Silling shared the committee’s vision and ranked in the top three contenders.

The leadership team and Seneca County first viewed the design committee’s recommendation in a public meeting on Oct. 19. With unanimous approval, the rendering would be shared with the architectural firm chosen for the project. The first time I saw the Silling design, I said “Wow!” They transformed the committee’s concept into an “iconic structure” with an impressive towering cupola. To me

the best feature of the new Seneca County Justice Center is its presence in the skyline of Tiffin. I consider it a privilege to have served on the exterior design committee for the justice center, and to be involved in gathering the contents for the time capsule to be opened in 2067. Huss is a local historian and author of “Temple of Justice.”

Tom Potts

“Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.”

– Arthur Schopenhauer

The courthouse, in its quintessential existence, is typically the most culturally significant building for an entire community. As a direct result, these facilities become landmarks that people are intrinsically connected to emotionally. Despite the longsuffering and vigorous efforts by the citizens of Seneca County, their historic 1884 Beaux-Arts courthouse that stood on these grounds was taken from them in an instant of shortsighted and misguided peril. It is certainly recognized by our firm that this is one of the most sensitive and challenging projects that a design team can be tasked to perform. Although we had successfully reimagined a courthouse in Berkley Springs, West Virginia, which was catastrophically destroyed by fire, we had never ventured into the realm of such high expectations from a resilient community still scarred by the cold tear of the wrecking ball. Admirably, the prevailing leadership had a clear direction and initiative to rebuild on the vacant land where the ever-present ghost lingered. Although the beloved courthouse could never be recreated in the modern era, the new facility could offer far superior space planning to the precise operational needs of the present county and municipal end-users. Also, the biggest challenges to entities operating in dated and worn facilities are often impossible to fully remedy; separated secure circulation from the general public, high performance mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and state-of-the-art technological considerations. Because the community was so passionate about the historic character of their building stock and fearful that a modern design might emerge at the hands of one neither familiar nor sensitive to their community, the owner assembled a design committee with the sole pur-

pose of guiding the exterior development. This committee, prior to our involvement and at the hands of a local historian and architectural designer, created a rendering of a four-story Second Empire Style building that was to be representative of the character of the new joint justice facility. Our design team was challenged to incorporate the stylistic features of the period rendering into a design that is more appropriate to the image and presence of an iconic rural county courthouse, while also making programmatic sense of the clock tower. A key decision for us was to logically order the 135’ tall clock tower as a vertical circulation element that is placed on a meaningful east-to-west axis that addresses the public green space and recalls the location of the main entry of the historic courthouse. The final design is highly civic in its architectural expression and responds well to the site, enhancing and memorializing the most significant public space in the community. We are grateful to have been a contributing player in this envisioning process for the city’s healing. As the freemasons consecrated the cornerstone with a sprinkling of corn and pouring of oil and wine, the Seneca County Joint Justice Center should serve the community for many years to come and deliver a reminder of strength, resilience and steadfast hope that Seneca County so greatly represents. Potts is president of Silling Architects.

6 – The Advertiser-Tribune, Tiffin, Ohio Thursday, May 17, 2018



Seneca County Commissioner Shayne Thomas poses with the statue of Lady Justice, that rests atop the cupola tower on the Seneca County Justice Center.

Shayne Thomas

The nervous young man slides out of his seat onto the parking lot. He is just down the street from the Seneca County Justice Center. Firmly planting his left loafer on the asphalt, he hears the crunch of a small stone smashed under the pressure of his foot. The grinding noise somehow awakens his senses to his surroundings. Pausing a moment and looking around, he notices that his community feels fresh. Not just because it is springtime, but because it feels as if Brigadoon has risen and shaken off its hundred-year slumber. In the middle of Courthouse Square is a new justice center. Its completion has sent a ripple through the civic core of the county seat like the proverbial rock dropped into a still pool. “Things are looking up,” he says to himself. Observing his fellow travelers on the sidewalk he notices that people are looking up too, up at the statue of Lady Justice, up at the clock tower. This is so much different than before when they were looking down and shaking their heads. The plan is to get coffee with his attorney prior to their appointment. She is waiting for him as he turns the corner. The corner of Washington and Market has always been a place to gather and express opinions. This speaker’s corner in the heart of downtown was today occupied by a half dozen local people advocating for protection of free speech. He wonders if it is an oxymoron to have a pro-First Amendment protest but then decides to just accept that he is blessed to live in a country where freedom of speech is the very first amendment in the constitution. As he continues down Washington Street toward his attorney, he finds it fitting that she is waiting for him in front of the historic marker. This sturdy brown plaque proudly proclaims in gold letters that Seneca County is the first place in Ohio where female attorneys were admitted to the bar. They decide to sit on the bench under the tree on Washington Street, drink their coffee and go over the day’s events. Coincidentally, on Saturday he had lingered in this very spot with his sweetheart. She was eating a crepe and he was holding their canvas bag of early vegetables from the farmers market. While unlocking their bikes, they had paused to listen to the performer picking a few acoustic tunes. How strange that one spot could serve two very different masters, he ponders. On Saturday, the plaza invited a serene and placid experience and Monday it demanded a focused businesslike purpose. What a marvel, he decides, that one space can be created to serve these two masters Saturday and Monday without diminishing the value of the other. After final instructions are discussed they head for the entrance. They are joined by other earnest faces going into the building to seek resolution. Some, like him, are accompanied by attorneys in pressed suits and grim faces. Others shuffle hesitantly toward the entry alone. All enter a building designed for the task at hand where they have reason to believe that here justice will be served.





Seneca County Commissioner Holly Stacy (right) speaks to more than 100 residents during a lighting ceremony March 9.

Holly M. Stacy

decision. When could it really happen? In this lifetime. Why was the process When asked to share so hard? Because anything my thoughts on what it has meant to me to be en- worth doing is never easy. How did it finally happen? gaged in the Seneca Cooperation. County Justice Center All the key elements of project, I was eager to do so; but to actually summa- any story being told, or rize the range of emotions project being built: who, was far more challenging what, where, when, why and how. The reference to than I expected. It has been an honor to serve as “we” is the many hardworking public servants a county commissioner from the county and the from the time of conception of this historic collab- City of Tiffin. The unique orative project through the program efforts that the ceremonial ribbon-cutting judges envisioned in for the iconic structure of shared facilities came to reality, unfolding as each justice. Being elected to milestone of the project serve the public is an honor in its own right, but was met. The location of to be able to do so during the former 1884 courta once-in-a-lifetime proj- house, in conjunction with ect truly has been a privi- utilizing the existing lege that I have not taken county court building, surfaced as the best decision for granted. for the build. From the Who would have first formal documents thought that we could being signed in 2015 to make this multi-governthe 2018 ribbon-cutting mental effort work? Not many. What could a com- and time capsule dedication, this project came to bined city-county project really do? Bring program- reality over a three-year ming opportunities and time period. It wasn’t easy; cost savings. Where is the in fact would not have been best location? Not an easy possible without the hard-

working county and city employees who added significant responsibilities to their existing workloads. Cooperation was the key to progress, be it between county and the city, the architect and contractor, the many different labor teams that built the project and the county and city employees who are providing services to the citizens they represent — all have cooperated to bring this project to completion. I stated that I did not take this unique opportunity, to be part of the leadership, for granted. This is why I took heart to seeking input from the citizens of the county on the many stages of the project. From striving to keep the public process of this unique project transparent, so that no one was surprised by decisions and progress along the way, to being creative in sharing the information on the project and getting feedback. From a display at the Seneca County Fair in 2016, to writing articles,

news releases, radio interviews, Facebook posts and to planning ways to help the citizens of Seneca County connect with their justice center, it’s been important to focus on this project from the eyes of many. I only hope that whether it was a time capsule idea shared with us, witnessing the groundbreaking or the iron worker saluting the flag at the conclusion of the topping out ceremony or marching as a Mason to be part of the cornerstone ceremony, that citizens of Seneca County found a way to connect to this historic project. My goal was to have a building that met the structural needs for safety and programming for those serving and served under its roof, constructed as economically as reasonable. In the end, I prayed we would have a center of justice for which all of us who call Seneca County home could be proud of for years to come. Stacy is a Seneca County commissioner.

The American flag is raised to the top of the building during a topping-out ceremony in April 2017. PHOTO BY JIMMY FLINT

Thomas is a Seneca County commissioner.

Mike Kerschner

I consider myself very fortunate in that I’ve been able to call Seneca County and Tiffin home my entire life. My wife, JoElla, and I raised three boys here and they have all chosen to call Tiffin home as well. As I thought about the history and heritage of Seneca County, I realized that my grandchildren are the fifth generation in my family who were born and raised here. I also thought about all those before us on whose shoulders we are stand- Kerschner ing. A whole lot of hard work and determination got us to the point we are at today. I believe it’s important to pay tribute to our previous city fathers and all who volunteered their expertise over the course of time because they are the reason we enjoy this community today. The Seneca County Justice Center is the result of collaboration between the City of Tiffin, Seneca County and all of the judges. Just as with many projects in the past, there were also hundreds of volunteer hours spent developing the idea of this justice center. I continue to be inspired by those people who work tirelessly for the greater good of our community. The justice center is the only one of its kind in Ohio. It houses all the common pleas courts, the Tiffin and Fostoria municipal court and the clerks’ office. The reason this has never been done before is because of the amount of cooperation it takes between political subdivisions and elected officials. I say “thank you” to all for their spirit of collaboration and for their motivation of doing what’s best for the citizens they represent. A very special “thank you” as well for the hundreds of people who had input into the design and implementation of the project we now all proudly call the Seneca County Justice Center. Kerschner is a Seneca County commissioner.

Jean A. Eckelberry

ments. We knew that it needed to be functional, innovative and seFrom my perspective as Seneca cure for all those who need our services now as well as in the fuCounty clerk of courts: ture. It was truly a team effort. As you Numerous committees were know, any formed in order to ensure that our project of this new justice center would be a sucmagnitude cess. These committees were comdoesn’t happen prised of elected officials from overnight, it all both Tiffin and Seneca County, began back in commissioners office and commu2015. While I nity members. I felt, as others did, was very exthat everyone’s input was very imcited to be portant and much needed. Everygiven the task, Eckelberry one was putting in countless I also knew it hours, but the end result was so would be very very worth it! daunting. Though being a small I was involved with the followpart of the judicial system, we are ing committees: exterior design, also a very intricate part of it. A interior finishes, furniture, fixtures challenge I was eager to accept. Being your clerk of courts isn’t and equipment, signage, security my only experience with the legal and parking, just to name a few. As our ideas began to take field here in Seneca County. Being shape in the form of a building, we a lifelong resident, I’ve spent alsaw what we had discussed over most my entire adult life in the legal field. As a legal assistant for many meetings begin to materialover 20 years, part of my responsi- ize. As in any project of this size, bilities included working with the you make adjustments and compromises. However, not straying various offices in the courthouse. For the next 14 years, I worked in far from what the original vision of what was needed. the courthouse as a bailiff and Our final step was moving into court administrator. Sitting down with my staff and our new offices, which was a chalthe architects, we needed to come lenge to say the least! Overseeing the move, as well as maintaining up with a concept and design for our services to all that we serve, the county’s new clerk of courts’ offices and ideas came together for was a little hectic. At times, computers seem to have a mind of both the legal and title depart-

their own, but we are in the new facility and are very excited. Be sure to look for a little history from our past in the new office. Located on the top of a cabinet is the old Jury Wheel. While it has not been used since 2008, it was an important part of the jury selection process for many, many years. It will be proudly displayed for years to come. I am extremely proud of my staff, not only for their involvement thus far, but by approaching me to donate toward the Lady Justice Project. They showed me their continued pride in all that they do. A special “thank you” to my staff in the title department — Teresa “Tar” Roessner, Deanna LaLone, Krystal Price, Belinda Holman and Stephanie Hicks; and to my staff in the legal department — Kelly Wise, Janet Joliat, Deb Whitmer, Monica Miller, Jenny Boehler and Mary Ward. In closing, I’m very appreciative for having a role in helping to make it possible for the city and county to come together as a team in our new Seneca County Justice Center. For me, the PRIDE in our community is back… Thank you.

Eckelberry is Seneca County clerk of courts.

A look back at courthouses of the past WWW. ADVERTISER - TRIBUNE . COM




The Advertiser-Tribune, Tiffin, Ohio Thursday, May 17, 2018 – 7

Many buildings in Tiffin have served as halls of justice for Seneca County



Staff Writer

s officials prepare to cut the ribbon on the newlyconstructed Seneca County Justice Center today, several people looked back on the history of courthouses in Seneca County. Seneca County Museum Director Tonia Hoffert said several buildings have been used as courthouses in the county and the history can be traced back to about 1822. She said Josiah Hedges built a building near the back of the current location of the Seneca County Prosecutor’s Office on what today is Court Street in Tiffin. She said space on the second floor of that building was leased and used as a court for about six years. Local historian John Huss said in 1828, a Methodist Episcopal church was used as the county court. The building was on the site of 20 E. Market St., where Red Raven Tattoo is located. Museum volunteer Mark Steinmetz said residents of the county found ways to make different buildings work as a court in the 1800s because they mostly were German immigrants who “didn’t believe in throwing things out.” In about 1835, Huss said, county officials began constructing what many consider the first courthouse structure where the justice center stands, but on the front lawn. The structure opened in August 1836 and the county commissioners at the time spent about $9,500 on the work completed by John Baugher. According to the inflation calculator, the building cost would be about $229,152 in 2017 dollars. Hoffert said the building burned in May 1841, which she said many believed was an arson. The fire left nothing but the brick walls standing. She said documents that were stored in the building can be found in the Seneca County Recorder’s Office. “You can still see the soot marks,” Hoffert said, before adding that many documents from about 1836-1842 were lost in the fire. Steinmetz said the county leased different store buildings in the downtown area to hold court proceedings after the fire. According to a news article from the early 1900s, in July 1841, work began to rebuild the courthouse, which cost about $3,485. Bauger handled the carpentry and painting, while Jacob Emich and Jacob Ronk did the brick work, Allison Phillips handled plastering, John Andrews did the penciling and painting the brick. John Terry, George Stoner and Joseph McClellan were Seneca County commissioners at the time. Steinmetz said the building was gutted and reconstructed after the fire on the brick walls that still were standing. After the building was rebuilt, business progressed as usual until about 1866 when an addition was built onto the east end of the building. Steinmetz said the expansion of the building included fireproof vaults and grand jury rooms. The addition was completed in 1867 and cost about $7,661, or about $136,390 in 2017 dollars. Huss said the fire was a major event in Seneca County history and started to spark discussion in the county that was a precursor to the 1884 courthouse being built. Steinmetz said many counties built new courthouses after the end of the Civil War in 1865. “It was a post-Civil War boom,” Huss said. Huss said during the 1870s, discussion about constructing a new building increased and a committee was created to begin making plans. In 1876, he said the 1841 courthouse was beginning to need several repairs. By 1882, plans materialized for the new building and bidding began in September 1883. Renowned architect Elijah E. Myers, of Detroit, was tabbed to design the building. Meyers is the only architect to design the capitol buildings of three states, the

Michigan State Capitol, the Texas State Capitol and the Colorado State Capitol. The 1841 building was demolished in October 1883 and a cornerstone ceremony for the new courthouse was conducted in 1884. The building was furnished and operational around November 1885. “A lot of materials were salvaged from the previous building,” Steinmetz said. Huss said the cost of the 1884 courthouse, which was about $214,000, was “very controversial” for county residents. That cost in 2017 money is about $6 million. Steinmetz said part of the reason for the high cost was a competition between counties trying to outdo each other with their new courthouses while populations skyrocketed after the war. “It was about pride,” he said. “We should have pride not just in Tiffin, but in Fostoria and in Republic, too.” Huss said new construction techniques were used, including having a cast-iron tower, which later turned out to be a poor choice. Steinmetz said for 45-50 years, the new courthouse held up well and had few issues, but in the 1930s officials began having issues with the cast-iron material expanding, contracting and tearing apart. Huss said officials strapped it up and patched it together for several years. The tower had several leaks and a new clock tower was added to

tax without the approval of voters in 2004. After the annex was constructed, the debate continued on whether the 1884 building should be renovated or demolished. Steinmetz said several events were organized trying to save the courthouse and several lawsuits were filed, but to no avail, as the commissioners at the time, Ben Nutter, Dave Sauber and Joe Schock, voted in August 2006 to demolish the building. This wouldn’t be the final time that a board voted to tear down the building, and several legal and political battles raged over the next six years on whether the building would be demolished, mothballed or rehabilitated. After finishing his term as state representative, Jeff Wagner was less than a week into his term on the Seneca County Board of Commissioners when PHOTOS SUBMITTED he joined commissioners Nutter Top, in this photo, courtesy of and Sauber Jan. 6, 2010, in votSeneca County Museum, the 1884 ing to renovate the building courthouse is shown in about 1928. after the county was approved for a $5 million loan from the Above, in this photo, courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture. Seneca County Museum, the 1884 Local and state grants were to courthouse is shown in about 1907. help pay for the $8 million projPHOTO BY JIMMY FLINT ect and the board thought it was Left, a model created by Tiffin resi- more affordable than new condent Jim Robenalt is shown. The struction. model is of what is considered to This all changed when Gov. John Kasich released his budget. be the county's first courthouse. Commissioners were concerned The structure, built in 1822 by Josiah Hedges, held the first court with the annual $285,000 in debt service, the cost of principroceedings in the county. pal and interest on the loan, for housed both Seneca County the project. Common Pleas courts, Seneca Commissioners voted 2-1, County Clerk of Courts and the with Sauber casting the dissentcounty title office beginning in ing vote, to rescind the resolu2004. Personnel moved out of tion to renovate the building. the building in 1943. Steinmetz the 1884 courthouse and into Nutter and Wagner were not said the former tower was the annex in January 2004 and interested in mothballing the scrapped and contributed to the the first case in the building was building, and Nov. 17, 2011, accity’s scrap metal drive, which in April of that year. cepted a $373,000 bid from was run by National Machinery. Before the annex decision B&B Wrecking of Cleveland for The metals collected in the drive was reached in 2001, Huss said the demolition and salvage of were used to build weapons, a blue-ribbon committee was the 1884 courthouse. equipment and vehicles in formed to discuss the future of Steinmetz said it made World War II. courthouses in the county. Hof- Seneca County one of just two Huss said he found a master fert said a sales tax was placed counties in the state to tear on the ballot around this time to down its post-Civil War courtplan for downtown Tiffin published in 1963 that suggested the raise money for renovations for house. Demolition of the builda new courthouse. Hoffert said ing began Jan. 9, 2012. courthouse be moved and a “controversial” sales tax levies parking garage be put up in its place. The private plan, funded failed twice — a 10-year, 0.25- For more information on the history of the 1884 Seneca by downtown business owners, percent sales tax that would have generated about $1 million County Courthouse, Huss resuggested moving the building leased a book, “Temple of Jusblock-by-block to another loca- annually failed first in May 2002 and a 0.5-percent increase tice,” April 23. The book is tion. Huss said in 1965, court$21.95 and can be purchased at rooms in the 1884 building were was rejected by voters in May 2003. The board of commission- Paper and Ink, 98 S. Washingremodeled. He said officials were having space issues and a ers later enacted the emergency ton St. second common pleas court judge was added to the building. Huss said in the 1990s discussion about what to do with the building began to surface, that, when combined with an event in 2001, ultimately lead the demise of the building. Huss said a 2001 fire was pivotal because an insurance claim of about $3.1 million became available to the county. The Hanson building, 108-114, E. Market St., was a historic downtown structure that stood for 126 years before the fire destroyed it. At the time, it was owned by the county and housed a teen center, though officials had intended to sell it. The insurance claim facilitated PHOTO SUBMITTED the construction of the Seneca In this photo courtesy of Seneca County Museum the 1884 courthouse is County Courthouse Annex, shown during construction. which began in 2002 and

8 – The Advertiser-Tribune, Tiffin, Ohio Thursday, May 17, 2018

Aaron Montz

These are truly exciting times in Tiffin and Seneca County. Our community is undergoing a renaissance as a new era of development is ushered in. New developments are being constructed in not only new structures, but many historic buildings are witnessing rebirths as new businesses and residential units spring up throughout downMontz town Tiffin. The community is moving forward, and growing in ways we have not seen in decades. However, for Tiffin and Seneca County to continue to move forward, we must move on from the destruction of the former 1884 courthouse. As an ardent supporter of the former courthouse, this has not been an easy task, even for me. I can still remember my inauguration ceremony that was purposely held in front of the structure as a last ditch effort to draw attention to the building and change minds about the demolition. Sadly, less than a week later, demolition began. I do believe the very moment the first hole was slammed into the corner of the 1884 courthouse was a turning point for downtown Tiffin. It was the literal jarring that so many needed to come to realize what precious treasures we have in so many historic buildings in our city. So many of us drew a line in the sand and said, “Never again.” Never again will we allow our historic structures to deteriorate and decay. Never again will we allow this to happen to our beautiful history. Flash forward to today. The rebirth of downtown Tiffin is alive and well. New shops, restaurants and offices have opened business after business along Washington, Market and Perry streets. Residential units occupy many of the upper floors of once-vacant buildings. The heart of a community is its downtown. Without a strong heart, the pulse becomes weak and the body and mind begin to tire. Without a strong downtown, the sense of community and the connectedness that downtown brings our city become weak as well. For without our strong heart, how ever are we to grow our community? The dedication of the new Seneca County Justice Center represents a new era of Tiffin and Seneca County. While the community is witnessing a renaissance of development, the leaders of Tiffin and Seneca County have entered into an unparalleled level of cooperation and collaboration for the benefit of all. The Seneca County Justice Center is a statewide example that by everyone working together, great things will come from it. Today, we officially dedicate the Seneca County Justice Center, a building that will serve the next several generations of Tiffin and Seneca County residents. While the day still holds some bittersweet emotions, we must move forward. Tiffin is now home to the first ever center of justice that will house every court in the county. No other city or county in the entire state of Ohio can lay claim to this. Instead, many have courts scattered throughout, leading to increased costs to maintain and operate multiple buildings. In Seneca County, we’ve done it right. With a single center for justice, long-term costs of operations, maintenance and staffing are reduced, saving taxpayer dollars while drastically increasing productivity. With the dedication of the Seneca County Justice Center, residents of Tiffin and Seneca County have a facility of which we can be proud. Tiffinite John Huss performed remarkable work designing the exterior look of the building to ensure that it had a look and feel that was powerful, yet aesthetically pleasing. The justice center brings back the look of “old Tiffin” with the mansard roof and brickwork (remember the old YMCA and the original city hall?) while also incorporating modern features such as the LED lighting of the tower which can change color to reflect holidays and events in our community. The future of Tiffin and Seneca County is bright. While we cannot bring back the 1884 courthouse, we can celebrate the accomplishments of today. Now, more than ever, we must be forward thinking and strive to build a better Tiffin and Seneca County. The Justice Center is one of the many pieces of the community puzzle put in place to ensure momentum and pride continue to grow locally. “We ought not to look back, unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors and for the purpose of profiting by dear bought experience” Montz is the mayor of Tiffin.

– George Washington

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Residents takes a tour in the under-construction Seneca County Justice Center during an open house in June.

Steve Lepard

We have such a beautiful building that will last for generations and serve the courts well. There are many people to thank, starting with John Huss, whose design was turned into a reality with little change. John is so humble, that when asked by a subcontractor what his involvement was, he simply replied, “I’m just on the parking committee.” I believe the design will stand the test of time and is complementary to the annex. We are very fortunate to have a man of his talents and vision in Seneca County. Gilbane and Silling were such a pleasure to work with, their attention to detail, professionalism and attitude were a blessing. The subcontractors that were chosen each played an important part in the success of this project. We cannot overlook those who contributed to the Lady Justice statue, a beautiful piece of art that adorns the structure. I am so proud that the Seneca County Justice Center Leadership Team agreed to ask the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ohio to lay the cornerstone of the building. If it were not for the efforts of Larry Rentz, it may not have happened. I know Tiffin City Administrator Dale Thornton had his hands full early in the construction of the building, handling traffic flow and parking issues as the city attempted to not inconvenience businesses. I’m so proud that the judges and Clerk of Courts Jean Eckelberry involved their staff in the design and layout of their areas to maximize efficiency, comfort and flow of traffic. There were so many items they brought to the table that I would have never thought of. The line of sight for the judges, concerning jurors, defense and prosecution was

James W. Fruth

William Harvey Gibson, our celebrated local orator, is commemorated by a statue at the corner of Washington and Market streets on Courthouse Square. According to accounts of the dedication ceremony for the previous courthouse, as the featured speaker, Gibson addressed the crowd for more than an hour. Gibson spoke not only about the building, which he called a “temple of justice,” but also about the hopes and dreams of all who visited the courthouse. Many things have changed greatly since 1884. The Advertiser-Tri-


Tiffin City Council members Steve Lepard (from right) and Tyler Shuff (center) and John Logsdon, Seneca County supervisor of building and grounds maintenance, sign their names to the final steel beam placed atop the Seneca County Justice Center during a topping-out ceremony in April 2017.

one example. Each judge had a different preference. Prior to construction, a mock set up was made in a vacant warehouse to correct issues. Future changes also will be possible due to the flexibility of the design. Sheriff Bill Eckelberry and his staff were involved early in the design process to address security monitoring, sally ports, holding areas and evidence security. The knowledge of requirements necessary for safety and security were unmatched. The project was never a oneman show and discussion was held on every item. Even though the budget was of concern, there was no cheapening out to save a buck. The commissioners urged Gilbane to give every opportunity available for local contractors, labor or furnishings of the project. From the beginning, names and businesses were given to Gilbane so they could be contacted. Gilbane made sure local businesses would have an opportunity to be part of this large project. Two behind-the-scenes people who need to be recognized stand out to me. They are Seneca County Supervisor of Building and

bune has asked members of the community to encapsulate their thoughts in messages of 600 words or less. When the previous courthouse was built, we relied Fruth upon newspapers, telegraphs and word of mouth. Now we live in the “Age of Information,” but suffer from increasingly short attention spans. On many days, we know more

Grounds Maintenance John Logsdon and County Administrator Stacy Wilson. The two were part of this process long before a shovel was turned. They both had frequent contact with vendors, contractors, architects, commissioners, judges and city officials. Those walking into the justice center should be proud of these two who dedicated several years of coordination, organization, dedication and knowledge to better serve the citizens. Their efforts should never be overlooked or forgotten, as these two were the backbone of the building. Whenever the leadership team had a question, we always turned to John and Stacy for a definitive answer. John probably knows the blueprints of the building better than the contractors. The entire process was a team effort, including many city and county residents. We have erected a justice center that all can be proud of and will stand for generations. We have learned that city and county can work together for the benefit of the people. Lepard is an at-large member of Tiffin City Council.

about events halfway across the globe than what is happening in our own neighborhood. In a few seconds, we can access knowledge about quantum physics and string theory on our smartphones, but often display flawed logic and common sense in our everyday lives. If Gibson could come back 134 years later, he would certainly point out these modern paradoxes and the great changes to everyday life. However, he would also focus on our need to preserve vital elements of our government and society. In balancing both these conservative and progres-

sive principles, we fulfill the promises of our nation’s founders who wished to establish a more perfect union. We have been provided a new “temple of justice” filled with the comforts and efficiencies of modern technology. While we celebrate new beginnings, let us pledge to preserve and celebrate the old-fashioned American ideal of equal justice under the law for everyone.

Fruth is a local attorney, member of the Seneca County Board of Elections and president of the Seneca County Bar Association.

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Congratulations on the completion of the new Seneca County Justice Center!

A Tribute To Justice  
A Tribute To Justice