By Timothy Cox
County officials are renewing efforts to sell the former county administration building at 311 S. Main St. in Celina.
Commissioners approved resolutions this week that would allow the county's private Community Improvement Corp. (CIC) to handle the sale while Community Development Director Larry Stelzer said an area businessman is interested in the property.
The building has sat empty for several years. Numerous attempts to sell the building through public bidding have not turned up a buyer. Other prominent companies and organizations have looked at the facility, but ultimately passed on buying it.
The three-story, 12,850-square-foot brick building is nestled between the Shell and Marathon gas stations on South Main Street. The property also includes a 48-space parking lot accessible off Warren Street.
Commissioners are in the process of having the building reappraised to establish a current value. They then plan to hand it over to the CIC to arrange its possible sale. Stelzer told commissioners Thursday that two parties have expressed interest in the property recently; one only wants the parking area. But the potential buyer who wants the building is not interested in owning the parking area.
Commissioners said such a unique combination would be a viable solution but said they would be reluctant to sell the parking lot until the building's future is certain.
"It cuts our options," trying to sell the building without the parking area, Commissioner Bob Nuding said.
Stelzer would not identify the interested parties, but said the man who asked about the building is a "wholesaler." The man plans to tour the building today, Stelzer said.
The building is in a B-2 commercial zoning district. Numerous businesses are allowed to operate at the site under the city's zoning code.
The CIC met this week to pass the necessary resolutions that will allow that group to take over control of the sale process. Ohio law prevents public entities from negotiating private sales of land and buildings. Instead, property must be offered at a public auction or through a competitive bidding process. By using the CIC as many communities do, various sale arrangements, land swaps or grants can be approved.
The CIC has always been maintained locally but has been largely inactive in recent years.
Having the group active can help not only with this situation, but also in other property matters, Stelzer said. For example, a common economic development incentive communities are using is to give away the land in exchange for the job creation development brings. County commissioners are barred from such a practice but the CIC could strike such a deal, he said.
The county controls undeveloped land in the Franklin Industrial Park and holds other undeveloped farmland and wood lots throughout the county.
The former administration building was constructed in 1924 and the county bought it for $150,000 in 1974 from the West Ohio Education Foundation.
The building saw many updates in the years before it was closed. A new gas-fired boiler system was installed in 1994, the building's electrical system was upgraded to 800-amp service in 1990 and the roof was replaced in 1988.
Drawbacks include the fact that it does not meet Americans With Disabilities Act standards for accessibility.