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Towers purchase advised

Jefferson County commissioners committee recommends move forward

September 28, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

STEUBENVILLE - The committee studying the possible purchase of the Towers on Market Street to house county offices, as opposed to paying rent, issued a recommendation Thursday to the Jefferson County commissioners.

The committee recommended the commissioners move forward with the purchase if a price can be negotiated.

David Hindman II, a member of the committee that included such members as a Realtor, attorney, accountant, banker and business owners, said the building's owner, Petrola Family Real Estate, recently made improvements to the cooling system, but the heating system is older. Hindman said the committee believes not a lot of money will have to be invested into the building.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said the county spent $4,000 on a commercial appraisal of the building.

Commissioners will now discuss whether it is in the best interest of the county to purchase the building.

The county already spends $80,000 a year in rent for county offices located in the building, according to county Commissioner Tom Gentile.

The commissioners want to move county offices currently being rented at other buildings into the Towers to save rent money.

Commissioners also want to move the county board of elections to the Towers and tear down the Courthouse Annex to allow for parking around the courthouse.

Hindman said there would be cost savings for the county to move offices into the building. He said it would be good for the downtown area to have the offices located in one building.

County Commissioner David Maple said he was pleased the committee completed this phase.

"It is just a phase and contingent upon an offer price that has not yet been revealed,"Maple said.

"It all comes down to numbers," Graham said.

Hindman said many of the committee members came in with the assumption the building wasn't worth it but changed their mind as they further studied the possible purchase.

"After viewing everything, it is a great opportunity," he said.

Gentile said, "I want to make it clear we are not buying the building (at this time) and not paying the price originally stated,"which was $1.7 million.

Commissioners also signed an agreement with Motorola in the amount of $2.7 million for a radio system upgrade for the county's 911 system.

Robert Herrington, 911 director, said the county and the state have gone together on the project, which will save the county more than $1 million.

Herrington said the radio equipment is 20 years old and nearing the end of its life cycle.

He said the radio system's capability will double because of state equipment being added.

Herrington said the radio purchase, which has been planned for the past several years, will be paid out of the 911 budget without a problem.

Commissioners also signed a $750,000 grant agreement with the Ohio Department of Transportation as part of the $2 million cost of extending the length of the county airport's runway to 6,000 feet to handle corporate jets. The Ohio Department of Transportation also gave the county a $750,000 grant, with the county committing $500,000.

Edward Looman, Progress Alliance executive director, said, "$1.5 million free from the state is a good thing."

Gentile said there has been $5 million invested in the county airport in the past five years, including a new terminal, hangars, roads and apron areas outside the hangars, without the county taking on too much debt.

Commissioners signed a revised water purchase agreement with Toronto, which supplies water from the city's plant to the County Services Complex on state Route 43, Wintersville.

The county and Toronto share costs of operating the plant and minor language changes were needed to specify how the costs will be shared.

Commissioners also:

Agreed to advertise for bids for cinders on behalf of the county engineer's department for the winter season. County Engineer James Branagan said the county has an ample supply of salt leftover from last year's mild winter. He said the cost of salt has fallen considerably from last year.

Signed road-use agreements with Cardinal Gas Services for the installation of gas transmission lines. The company will be using county Roads 61, 75 and 75A and Springfield Township roads.

Agreed to provide reimbursement to the county health department out of leftover levy funds for treatment of tuberculosis patients and children with medical handicaps. The county once had a combined levy for payment of the bills but it was removed from the ballot more than 10 years ago. The county only has enough money left for about five or six years of payments.

Agreed to pay $5,322 out of the county's computer fund to purchase computers for the Jefferson County Soil and Water District office.

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