The Jefferson County commissioners should consider the purchase of the Towers building on Market Street.
It appears to be a good financial investment for the county in several ways. As with any building purchase, however, there can be risks, especially with the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.
The commissioners appointed a committee of business and real estate professionals to study the concept of buying the building. After months of study, the committee came back with a positive recommendation, including a purchase price of between $700,000 and $900,000.
The owner of the building, Dr. Frank L. Petrola of Tower Realty Inc., has accepted the county's offer of $750,000 for the office building. Four adjacent parking lots are being offered for $100,000.
The commissioners for years have been expressing concern at the rent payments being made by various county offices. For example, the county's regional planning commission and board of health annually pay $83,292 for office space in the Towers, and the county pays the parking costs for employees, which totals $18,315 a year.
The commissioners want to tear down the Courthouse Annex and build public parking for persons using the courthouse. It can be difficult for persons visiting the courthouse to find parking near the building, including residents wanting to go to the board of elections for early voting.
The county wants to move the board of elections to the Towers.
The veterans services commission, which the commissioners provide funding for, is located in an old building on North Street. The gas bill for heating last month was $1,000, not to mention other maintenance costs associated with an older building. The building isn't easy to access for older veterans, especially those in wheelchairs.
County residents will benefit from having several county offices located in one building.
Private tenants in the Towers will be able to remain and the county will be looking for other businesses to locate there, helping to offset the cost of the purchase and maintenance of the building.
The commissioners want to roll the purchase of the building and the cost of demolishing the annex building and construction of a parking lot into one loan, which they believe can be paid off in 10 years. The county will then own a building that can house county offices rent free and will continue to receive rent from the private sector, which can be used to pay for maintenance costs of the Towers.
The county is in a fortunate position that it can take on the debt without worrying. Many counties and communities are struggling with day-to-day operations.
The purchase of the Towers would be a good thing for the county in the long run, as long as maintenance costs -especially the heating and cooling - don't get out of hand.