County to Purchase Building near Piper Airport

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by LaKeshia Knarr

ccc-logoLOCK HAVEN – Clinton County government is buying a new building in Lock Haven, commissioners announced Thursday.

The former “blue building” located adjacent to the Piper Aviation Museum on the eastern side of town is being purchased for $800,000, plus an additional $150,000 for contents, explained Commissioner Jeff Snyder, who was put in charge of the relocation project.

The commissioners said the closing on the property will take place before or on January 31, 2017.

Located at 100 Mercer Drive, the new site offers three floors totaling 32,561 square feet, has 233 parking spaces, and was renovated in 2001-02.

“County government is growing. For some time the commissioners have been trying to figure out a solution that would not only provide the space that we need, but also put as many county government services together under one roof for the convenience of those who require our services,” Snyder read from a prepared statement.

The plan has been in the works for several months. The county and current property owner, United Fire Group Insurance of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, came to the sales agreement this week, Commissioner Pete Smeltz said.

The building, which has been on the market for roughly 5 years, according to Commissioner Paul Conklin, was initially listed at $1.3 million. The county had the building assessed twice and was able to purchase it for the lowest assessment value, $800,000; the higher being $1 million.

Conklin noted that the price was a deal, saying if you divide the price by the square footage it equates to roughly $24 per square foot. In the construction trade, he said, that’s typically closer to $180 per square foot.

Currently occupied by two tenants, the commissioners believe they may begin working on the building within a few months. One of the tenants, Davis Insurance Co., is already planning to relocate to a building that hasn’t been constructed yet next to Fox’s Restaurant on East Church Street. The new Davis Building is expected to be completed in the summer of 2017, and the company will lease from the county until it relocates, Snyder said.

The building will house the offices of register and recorder, treasurer, assessment, county auditors, Children and Youth Services, GIS, MIS, the commissioners, voter registration, planning, payroll, agricultural extension and the Clinton County Conservation District (CCDC).

Snyder noted the county will no longer need to rent space on Grove Street and will sell the Route 64 property that is currently being used by the CCDC.

Once the purchase is finalized and after the county sells the Route 64 property, Smetlz noted, the county will own the courthouse, the Garden Building on Main Street in Lock Haven, the former Flemington Elementary School building and the Mercer Drive building at Piper.

To pay for the new building, the county intends to roll the cost of the project into a bond, along with other capital improvement projects, such as the courthouse renovation projects and the computer-aided-design (CAD) system upgrade at the 911 Center, Smeltz said.

Commissioners are meeting with their bond counselor next Monday, Dec. 4, to discuss terms of borrowing, he noted.

Snyder said he believes the county will likely pay for the new building out of the county’s reserve funds and replenish that with the bond once it is issued; Smeltz added that the commissioners would need to pass a reimbursement resolution prior to doing so.

The move to the new building will free up space for currently congested county departments, particularly the Probation and Domestic Relations offices, Snyder said. Once those departments are situated, the county officials may look into approaching other external entities about utilizing the space so the county can collect rent.

Snyder said there are also talks of including a day reporting center in the Garden Building so that low-level offenders in the county may be able to be put on house arrest and work release and check in there. Currently, the county provides a separate facility for such prisoners at the prison for an estimated $300,000 annually.

Speaking to the benefits of the new building, the commissioners said conference rooms will be available for Children and Youth to hold private meetings with clients, electric bills appear reasonable and the building renovation updated electrical work and general aesthetics inside.

Smeltz was also particularly pleased that a generator system came intact.

“The generator system is probably worth about half a million dollars by itself… If there is a power surge, there should be no interruption in services provided,” Smeltz said.

Fiber optic cables will connect the new building to the Garden Building.

While most of the offices will be comprised of cubicles, county maintenance staff is able to construct walls to break up a currently open floorplan, Snyder said.

“We don’t have a map (time table) yet,” he continued. “It’s going to take what it takes to do it right. It’s not just about providing the right work environment; we want to make sure these services re best laid out.”

“It’s about becoming more efficient, hopefully in the long run reducing the cost of county government,”  added Smeltz, “it’s also hugely about providing better customer service to county residents.”