By Xiomara Levsen, The JOURNAL
Washington County supervisor and board chairman Abe Miller announced Tuesday the owners of Federation Bank have approached the county about purchasing the building located at 102 East Main Street in Washington.
?We?ve held a couple closed sessions on this and today we?ve decided to talk about it publicly,? Miller said. ?We have to either make a decision to go for it or go without it, I guess.?
The bank is asking $1.7 million with all the furnishings included, Miller added. Withouth the furnishings, the price would be $1.6 million.
?It would need some work,? he said. ?That work would be completed by the bank, if we would agree to purchase at that stated price. Otherwise, they would reduce the asking price by whatever it would cost us.?
To move along with any type of purchase agreement, the county would need to act quickly, Miller added. He asked for input from the other supervisors on what their desire would be.
Supervisor Bob Yoder said he liked the property. The county already uses three floors of that building for its public health department and he said he doesn?t think they could build a building for that price.
A lot of the offices the county has on the first floor of the courthouse could potentially move to the Federation Bank building eliminating the public having to use the stairs, Yoder added.
The biggest problem Yoder saw was would the public approve a bond issue for the county to purchase the Federation Bank building.
?Trying to redo our 911 system and do this at the same time I think that is where there is going to be a challenge,? Yoder said.
Supervisor Stan Stoops said some of the things discussed in their closed sessions was the previous bond vote the county had for a building for public health for $3 million.
?This is half of that cost,? Stoops added.
This would give the county two more floors of space that they need to help with the crowding issue they have a the courthouse, supervisor Jack Seward Jr. said.
?No plans have been drawn up as far as who would move where ? that?s all in for discussion,? Seward said, ?but on the pro side it would be progress as far as the future needs of county business.?
A survey was done with all the department heads and elected officials about office space needs, Seward said. A year ago, a lot of the comments made were, ?It?s not the best, but we?re making do.? The survey was done again and it showed a reason for the county to consider this option seriously.
When the public health building was discussed Seward said a lot of people talked with him about having a single-use building for them and why not take advantage of buildings that are already around.
?And this fulfills or negates both of those arguments, so I think it?s worthwhile to think about it,? Seward added.
However, the county is right in the middle of a multimillion-dollar project for emergency services and communications, he said.
?And I have to think about that in terms of what is required, what is necessary, what is nice,? Seward said, ?so that kind of discussion is kind of what we need from the folks around here.?
Getting more office space for the county has been put off since the early ?90s, he said. Maybe it was time for the county to stop pushing this off and start working on finding a solution.
Supervisor Richard Young said he agreed with what Seward said. He also said he is the one who has said for years they need to look into the future for building needs.
?We just added another person in the auditor?s office,? Young said. ?We?re outgrowing this building. There?s no way we can build a building for what this is going to cost if you think about it.?
In order to pay for the building, a bond vote would have to be held, he added.
The offices that would go in the Federation Bank building would be offices the public uses every day and there is need for more office space in the county, Miller said. Rather than spend money on another study Miller said he would like to let the public decide whether or not the county moves forward with this with a bond vote.
?My thought is we just need to proceed with it and get it on the ballot and let the people decide what they want us to do,? he added.
The earliest a bond vote could take place would be with a special election in August, Washington County auditor Dan Widmer said. The latest would be December. He told the supervisors he would call the secretary of state?s office to get the dates of when a bond vote could be held and would let them know at the next meeting.
The supervisors decided the topic of acquiring additional office space would need to be on the agenda for the next couple of weeks. There was no formal action taken on this subject at the meeting.