For the city of Sandusky, opportunity knocks

Feb 10, 2013

Excerpt from editorial Viewpoint in today's Sunday Register:  A suggestion by Erie County commissioners on Thursday that the city of Sandusky consider moving its City Hall operations to the County Administration Building at Columbus Avenue and Washington Row includes an offer to donate county-owned property near the sheriff's office that potentially can be designated as an enterprise zone where the Sandusky Municipal Court and the city police department can build.

An enterprise zone in the area where the sheriff's office and jail, and the new Perkins Police Department are located would allow for the current structure of our law enforcement agencies to remain as they are, while at the same time enhancing cooperation among those agencies and the court. It could become a sort of justice center isolated from tourists and residents visiting downtown and the waterfront pathway.

An enterprise zone also preserves the tax base for each community.

At first blush, it appears there are many advantages in the proposal to move City Hall operations to the former LaSalle store with the parking garage:

**   Eliminates the potential multi-million dollar construction or renovation costs associated with relocating, a huge plus for taxpayers.

**   Moving City Hall operations could be accomplished relatively quickly with limited expense.

**   Criminal proceedings and the activity of a busy court get removed from a slice of waterfront property, enhancing the recreational or commercial value of that property and the adjacent Battery Park and former Surf's Up properties along the waterfront.

**   Connecting the current City Hall property with Battery Park and the Surf's Up properties creates an opportunity for world-class waterfront acreage with a world-class view that will enhance the value of Sandusky and it's downtown business district as a premiere tourism destination place.

The initial reaction from city, county officials and members of the public has been positive and we hope city commissioners move quickly to vet the details. Municipal Court Judge Erich O'Brien has set a June deadline for a decision on his plan to use court funds for the construction of a new municipal court building.

We urge city commissioners to have a public discussion at tomorrow's city commission meeting and a vote to ask city manager Nicole Ard to review the details with county officials and come back with preliminary recommendations within 30 days.  


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Matt Westerhold

Thanks for the comments, pavedparadise, captain and Swamp Fox. It's a bit disappointing, however, to dismiss  this suggestion before it's ever discussed by city officials. Wouldn't it be better to attempt to get a better understanding of what might be possible in an agreement before making a determination on the value of it?   

Swamp Fox

Matt many concerns and questions were raised that I think has merit and should be answered by all parties before any tax funds are expended.


I wonder what "Initial reaction from members of the public has been positive" Matt is referring to. Has the Register interviewed the men and women on the street to come to this conclusion?

T. A. Schwanger


What everyone needs to remember is the City and County are not re-inventing the wheel here.

These exact discussions and plans were part of the last two attempts to vacate City Hall and major problems were evident. One plan to renovate and move into privately owned Columbus Ave. buildings downtown would have cost the City significanly more than renovating the current building.

Based on conversations at the County level, ECEDCs small office space in the County's downtown Columbus Ave. building is valued at $38,000 yearly.

Matt, do you know what the County's construction debt is on the Columbus Ave. building? And what part the courts played in paying that debt?
Also, you and I both know, again based on past experience, if this idea become a reality, commercial development will not be limited to just the footprint of City Hall.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks for the comment Tim. I don't know the county debt on the building and don't know what any possible lease agreement might cost the city. Those details have not been vetted or discussed as this was just suggested last week. They are questions that would need to be answered and I'm not assuming anything, one way or another. 

I cannot recall the County Administration Building ever coming into play previously as a potential location for City Hall. It would seem to me that any renovation costs required for a move to that building would be minimal compared to other locations that were considered.

Also, I'm not assuming anything with regard to how the 222 Meigs St. property and the other properties might be used if City Hall operations are moved. As I stated previously, I think it's important to separate and get answers to both questions, independently of each other.

Should City Hall operations be moved?

What should be done with the properties if it should?

I think to would be better to work through those questions without assumptions and without arming for the same battles that have occurred in the past. I also believe there is an opportunity here that might serve your worthy agenda to preserve the waterfront. 

T. A. Schwanger

Thanks for the response Matt.

Having this particular article on the Register web-page has started a dialog of questions and concerns prior to finalized plans that hopefully the players involved are paying attention to.

The year was early-mid 90's when the City' plan was to construct City offices where the downtown County Bldg stands today. The County ended up building instead and there was talk at that time for the City to share cost and space. Lack of City dollars ended the discussion.

"In many ways, the government structure at the local level in Ohio is a reflection of the 19th century “horse and buggy” days."

"Ohio’s fiscal reality demands - and its citizens deserve - clean, accountable and efficient government. is a new tool in our effort to meet this standard."
"Consolidation of governments may help Ohio"
"The National League of Cities (NLC) is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. Working in partnership with the 49 state municipal leagues, NLC serves as a resource to and an advocate for the more than 19,000 cities, villages and towns it represents"


Why don't we just annex and get it over with? What is the county's motive anyway for being so hospitable? That alone will make you suspicious of this whole thing. You can bet they have something up their sleeves. As for the group that is positive about all this, let us start with the downtown business people such as the Downtown Association who stand to gain on all this. Motives are always slanted towards them profiting off of moving Ctiy Hall.


What Is an Enterprise Zone?

According to the Internal Revenue Service, a business qualifies as an enterprise zone business if it satisfies the following conditions: every trade or business of the corporation or partnership actively conducts business within an "empowerment zone," at least 50 percent of gross income is from actively pursuing business within a zone, a substantial portion of the total usage of all tangible property occurs within a zone, a substantial part of intangible property is used in the conduct of the business, a substantial portion of workers work within a zone, at least 35 percent of employees are zone residents (not including Washington, D.C.), and less than 5 percent of the average total unadjusted basis of property is from certain financial property or collectibles not for sale to the public.

Not sure government offices or services qualify or meet the spirit of the Enterprise Zone purpose.


"What Is an Enterprise Zone?"
Ohio Enterprise Zone Program