By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

Bank rejects county's bid

The county says it would be willing to entertain a counteroffer, but the bank says the county’s bid fell too far short to merit a response. If the county is still interested, the bank says, it needs to present a more realistic offer.

The 16,400-foot building, lying diagonally across from the county courthouse, was erected in 1937 as a private hospital and last remodeled in the 1970s to accommodate medical offices. In a sealed-bid foreclosure auction, the county submitted a bid of $305,000.

The County Assessors Office has the property on the books at $661,574. In January 2012, Citizens took possession after foreclosing on a loan with an outstanding balance of $587,874.

County commissioners said they felt the property would be a good investment, as the county already owns the adjacent office building, which shares a sky-bridge connection with the former hospital, in addition to a web of nearby properties.

The building lies just across the street from a stately old house the county has converted into office space for the commissioners and top county administrators. In fact, Commissioner Allen Springer, the county’s liaison for facilities, and a builder by trade, can see it from his office.

What’s more, the county’s Health and Human Services Department occupies offices at the other end of the sky bridge.

Springer said the county is still interested in the building. He said its initial bid was intended merely as a starting point for negotiations.

“We’re not going to go in there with the taxpayers’ money and offer them top dollar,” Springer said. “Things are worth what someone is willing to pay.

“We’ve got to be able to justify our expenditures and make wise investments. I felt like I could fully defend that kind of number with the most conservative of investors.”

Springer said the building has some obvious problems. He said the roof, boiler and elevator need replacing, as do the single-pane windows, and the plumbing needs updating.

In addition to the known problems, he said, a tour revealed there were a lot of potential challenges. And he said the bank would require acceptance “as is.”

“We don’t know the things we don’t know,” he said. “We would assume all the risks, all the unknowns, some of which pose liabilities and there are also known issues that would cost money.”

He acknowledged the county offer came in far below the bank’s posted minimum. But he said, “We had to start somewhere,” and that’s what he and his fellow commissioners felt comfortable opening with.

“Clearly, the bank was disappointed that the bid wasn’t more realistic,” said Bill Hubel, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Citizens.

“The bid did not meet the published reserve,” he noted. In fact, he said, “The amount was significantly less than the reserve, so there wasn’t much need to discuss it further.”

But Hubel said of county officials, “If they came to us with a new proposal, we could certainly discuss that.” In the meantime, he said, the building remains on the market.

He declined to say whether or not the bank had received any other bids.












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