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05-04-06 From none to two bids

By Tim Cox

  After years of dormancy, interest in the former Mercer County administration building, 311 S. Main St., Celina, is heating up.

  Mercer County officials are studying two different offers from local businessmen for the structure that sits between two gas stations on the south edge of Celina's downtown. Last week, they rejected a bid of $110,000.

  County officials would not release details of the offers or the proposed uses for the building site, but say they are confident a sale of the property is close at hand. County commissioners want to first review business plans for each proposal before deciding whether to sell the building.

  The county's Community Improvement Corp. (CIC) would have the final vote on whether to sell the building after commissioners give the group a recommendation. The CIC rules for selling land require that jobs be created and that the project generally benefit the county's economic development interest.

  "They both offer viable uses for the site. I'm confident the building will be sold to one of them," Mercer County Economic Development Director Larry Stelzer said.  Both pending offers are for the purchase of the building and the adjacent 48-space parking lot to the rear of the building.

  County officials have been trying to sell the building since 2000 after county offices were relocated from the former administration building and the county courthouse to the Central Services Building on West Livingston Street. The county purchased the building for $150,000 in 1974.

  The three-floor building was constructed in 1924 and has had a number of owners and uses through the years. The building was used by Ohio Northern University and Wright State University to hold classes, and later was owned by the West Ohio Education Foundation.

  The building's main drawback is considered its lack of handicap accessibility.

  The building and parking lot were appraised at $360,000 late last year.


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