By JIM MAURER
TIFFIN — Lewis Hurst, superintendent of the Seneca County Opportunity Center, has asked the county commissioners to consider selling the building that houses the Early Childhood Development Center in Fostoria.
The center’s services in Fostoria would continue if the building is sold.
The Opportunity Center, which provides a school and a workshop for children and adults with developmental disabilities, operates the Early Childhood Development Center and offers services there for youngsters from birth to 3 years old.
The Opportunity Center pays $18,000 annually in rent for two classrooms for the Development Center, which are not used full time, Hurst said. The Wood Sandusky Ottawa Seneca Community Action Commission uses most of the space in the building for a preschool program.
The Development Center is located at 801 Kirk St., on the western edge of the city in Hancock County.
The “functionality of the building is not practical,” Hurst said.
The center also has offices for service and support administration at the site, he said.
If the building is sold, services would still be offered in Fostoria, Hurst said.
The center may find other public space, such as the public library, for city residents.
“We won’t cut services to Fostoria,” he said.
Hurst said an early childhood center has been added to Sentinel Vocational Center in Tiffin, so area residents no longer have to drive to Fostoria for those services.
The Fostoria building was constructed and has been owned by the county and operated by the Opportunity Center for eight years, Hurst said. It has been appraised at more than $1.3 million, according to the Hancock County auditor’s website. The construction was funded mainly with a state loan of $1.8 million. Half the funds have been repaid, Hurst said, and the remainder may be forgiven.
Revenue received from a sale would be used to purchase a downtown Tiffin building since the Opportunity Center is “out of space” there, he said.
Hurst said he will contact Seneca County Prosecutor Derek DeVine about a possible sale. The original agreement required the center to provide services for 15 years, Hurst said, but since the state is now discouraging the use of center-based services, it may forgive the years of operation requirement, too.
The commissioners agreed the issue should be explored, but Commissioner Jeff Wagner said it may require a public sale.
If a sale is not possible, Hurst said he would “keep the operation the way it is,” and “decide how to adapt to a changing environment.”
“We don’t want to lose federal funds by not providing services,” Hurst said.
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