County purchases prime real estate

Tuesday, February 1, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:43 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

As a committee discusses how to ease a space crunch in Boone County government, county commissioners have acquired or contracted to buy several pieces of prime downtown real estate.

In December, the county bought the Guaranty Land Title building at 607 E. Ash St. for $670,000 and will take possession of that building in July, said Presiding Commissioner Keith Schnarre.

He also told the county’s Space Needs Committee on Thursday that the county has a contract with the Count Boonty LLC to buy the former Lifestyles Furniture building at 101 N. Seventh St. and a nearby building at 609 E. Walnut St. that is occupied by the law firm Ford, Parshall and Baker LLC. The combined price of those two buildings is $2.05 million.

Those purchases add to the county’s considerable holdings downtown. In addition to the Boone County Courthouse and the county government center, the county also owns the building formerly occupied by Jerry’s School of Hairstyling at 217 N. Ninth St., which it purchased in August for $262,500, and the Johnson Building at 601 E. Walnut St., which houses facilities maintenance, personnel and purchase offices.

The property acquisitions come as the county’s Space Needs Committee tries to determine how best to ease the county’s space crunch. The committee was appointed last year to review a $15 million spending plan that included expanding the courthouse annex, finishing the third floor and renovating the first two floors of the government center and razing the Johnson Building to make way for a two-story office building.

County officials have proposed a property tax levy — subject to voter approval as soon as this year — that would finance those projects over 15 years.

The Space Needs Committee has discussed numerous plans for the new and existing county properties. Committee Chairman David Shorr said the panel has reached “an interim decision” to follow through with finishing the third floor of the government center, which is an 18,000-square-foot space that houses only a mailroom.

The county already has enough money to finance that project, which could be done fairly easily without inconveniencing anyone, Shorr said. The county auditor and treasurer, along with the human resources department, could move to the new third floor, he said.

The first and second floors of the government center might also be renovated on a smaller scale with money the county already has. If the committee, however, decides a more extensive renovation is necessary, those plans would be submitted to the public with the courthouse expansion and any plans for the new properties.

The committee has also discussed other changes, including a relocation of the Boone County Planning and Building Department from the second floor of the government center to the top floor of the Guaranty building. The department’s field staff feels bad about wearing dirty boots into the government center, Shorr said, so adding the top floor of the Guaranty building would also provide more space.

Relocating the planning and building offices could free up space in the government center for a permanent polling place that otherwise would be placed in the lower level of the Guaranty building. Whether a permanent polling place is required depends on specifications of the National Election Law, which remain unclear.

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