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Dead on arrival

Andy Ouriel • May 31, 2013 at 5:00 AM

Sandusky declined an offer from Erie County commissioners to discuss the potential for moving City Hall into the Erie County Office Building at Columbus Avenue and Washington Row.

It’s unclear who declined the offer, or why.

The county made the offer in a Feb. 25 letter to city manager Nicole Ard.

Ard never responded to it.

She declined to answer questions earlier this week regarding the offer. She did reply to an email inquiry from the Register, but her response, which was copied to all seven city commissioners, seemed nonsensical.

“The ICMA Code of Ethics outlines how managers correspond with other governing bodies’ elected officials,” Ard replied. “That is probably part of the reason why communities follow the protocol of elected officials corresponding with their elected peers and managers to other managers, some elected bodies may ask a manager to correspond with their peers on their behalf but not often.”

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City commissioners refuse to address questions about the offer, and it’s never been on commission’s agenda. 

“We have not met and discussed that,” ex officio mayor John Hamilton said.

One city commissioner said he isn’t interested in the county’s offer.

“No one thought it was important enough to bring it up,” city commissioner Wes Poole said. “I didn’t bring it up because I didn’t think it was something that I wanted to do.”

Monaghan seemed somewhat irritated the city didn’t even respond.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is off the table,” he said. “We’ve got plans to use (the building) and I haven’t heard one word from anyone in the city.”

Shenigo, meanwhile, provided some optimism.

“I’m still open to the idea,” Shenigo said. “I just want to hear back from them.”

For years, city officials have considered moving from City Hall, citing its poor condition and the cost of upkeep. Estimates for building a new structure have ranged from $3 million to $10 million.

In addition to a low-cost lease at the administration building, Monaghan and Shenigo also suggested city officials could move the police department and municipal court into Perkins Township.

City Hall shortcomings

Had city commissioners accepted the offer, it would’ve solved a huge problem plaguing past and present Sandusky officials. For about 25 years, city commissioners debated leaving City Hall, the 57-year-old headquarters at 222 Meigs St.

Sandusky’s chief building official, George Poulos, hesitated in late 2012 to approve piecemeal upgrades in some areas, including the municipal court facility, since he considers City Hall structurally weak.

The office building, formerly the Lasalle’s department store on Columbus Avenue and Washington Row, could house most City Hall employees working for various departments, such as engineering, finance and administration. Other city operations could be located at the city service center on Cement Street, on Sandusky’s west side.

Sandusky Municipal Court Judge Erich O’Brien said he intends to break ground on new construction at 222 Meigs St. for a new courthouse if commissioners don’t come up with other options.

Hamilton suggested City Hall could move into the former Sandusky Cabinets property, a condemned and blighted facility on East Washington Street.

“Our city building does have issues, which need to be dealt with in a well-thought out, long-term strategic plan,” Hamilton said. “This is the wrong time to be selling off any city-owned property for money to build a new City Hall, maybe in five years.”

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