Monday, February 25th, 2013
By William Kincaid
City to buy bank building
Departments would relocate after $1.9 million purchase
  CELINA - City officials intend to purchase the First Financial Bank building across from city hall on Main Street for $1.95 million to relocate all of its departments and offices except the fire department and municipal court.
City council members will go over first reading of legislation appropriating money from the electric fund for the bank purchase at 7 p.m. tonight at city hall.
If approved, the city would borrow internally to complete the transaction and pay itself back over seven years with revenue from the water, wastewater and general funds at a fixed annual rate of 0.21 percent.
First Financial Bank is committed to staying in Celina and is considering several location options, Celina Mayor Jeff Hazel said this morning. He said bank officials approached the city about purchasing the building. Calls to bank administrators were not returned by press time today.
City officials have explored multiple avenues during the last few years - including updating and expanding city hall - to deal with cramped facilities.
"It will save us a tremendous amount of money from not having to build from scratch," Hazel said, pointing out that expanding city hall would have cost at least $10 million.
He anticipates little city investment, other than the purchase price, in the 35,000-square-foot building that complies with Americans with Disabilities Act standards and has a security system in place. It was built in 1996.
"For us, it's just almost cut and fit," Hazel said.
Moved into the building would be all offices from the West Market Street utility building, which includes administration, customer services and engineering, and most offices from city hall, such as police, the tax department and auditor. Only the fire department and municipal court would remain in city hall.
"We will be looking at doing some improvements down the road," Hazel said about the fire department.
City officials plan to sell the West Market Street building.
If the transaction is finalized, the police department would be moved first, hopefully in June, Hazel said. City officials for years have talked about the cramped quarters at the police department with witnesses, victims and suspects often having to fill out reports or talk to officers in the hallway.
In addition to consolidating the city's offices and providing more space, the purchase would give the city a strong presence downtown, the mayor said.
Council members, who were informed about the offer in executive sessions, are in unanimous agreement about purchasing the building, Hazel said.
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