Clark County government center price tag rises to $8M

The Springview Government Center was purchased for just $2, but since then Clark County officials have spent more than $8.1 million remodeling the former state residential facility.

Clark County Commissioners John Detrick, David Hartley and Roger Tackett in 2005 leased and then purchased the building from the state after the Springview Developmental Center, which housed people with developmental and physical disabilities, closed due to state budget cuts.

Some have questioned the money spent on the building and whether officials followed a plan to fill the 90,000-square-foot property. One county commissioner has labeled the second phase of renovations a waste of taxpayer dollars.

But the county would have spent more if it built a new, similar-sized facility, County Administrator Nathan Kennedy said.

“A new building would have cost a lot more,” he said. “It would have cost $13.5 million to build the same amount of square footage. This is cheaper.”

County Commissioner Rick Lohnes wasn’t a commissioner when officials decided to purchase the building, but he said the initial $2 spent on the facility has turned into a much larger investment.

He said he wished officials had a written plan for the facility.

“If we ever do something like that while I’m on the board, I’m going to make sure everything is written down. There should have been folks pushing to make sure they kept going with the plan,” Lohnes said.

One-stop shop

Springview has been renovated in two phases.

In the first phase, the county tore down a 10,000-square foot building on the property and spent about $7.3 million on renovations to relocate the east district office of the sheriff’s office, the Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee and the Clark County Board of Elections to the government center.

Renovations and upgrades for the board of elections alone cost more than $2 million.

Those costly upgrades — and the decision to purchase Springview — were pushed forward in part by the Help America Vote Act, which required officials to update security, purchase more technology, and provide more space and storage for the Clark County Board of Elections.

The east district sheriff’s department also left its location to make room for the Next Edge technology park.

Then in phase two, the county spent an additional $836,000 in the past year to bring more offices into the building, including the OSU Extension, 4-H and Soil and Water Conservation District.

Those agencies were relocated from the Clark County Agricultural Building after county commissioners voted 2-1 to lease the site to Konecranes in 2012.

At the Springview Government Center, the third floor and portions of the basement remain unoccupied.

The large facility has brought together several county departments once scattered across the city into one location, Detrick said.

“Having your offices at a one-stop shop adds to convenience,” he said.

Other options

The purchase of Springview in 2005 came when the Center City Association encouraged the county to look at its existing property downtown or other nearby buildings.

Options included expanding the Public Safety Building, 120 N. Fountain Ave., including adding parking around the courthouse, at a cost Center City officials thought were comparable to the first phase of Springview renovations.

Commissioners in 2005 considered several buildings, including downtown locations. But cost, space and parking proved problematic.

“The state was willing to sell Springview for $1 and they thought it would be a good deal,” Kennedy said.

‘Big chunk’ of money spent

The county has torn down and sold five buildings since moving to Springview, Detrick said.

By condensing the number of buildings the county owns, Kennedy said the county has saved on maintenance costs and cut down on employee travel among multiple locations.

Still, he said the county has had to spend a “big chuck” of funds on upgrading water and electrical lines as well as a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

Hartley and Tackett said all three commissioners in 2005 thought buying Springview was a good idea.

The Garfield Building — which housed the board of elections, planning and utilities departments — was “bursting at the seams,” Kennedy said. Even if planning and utilities staff members moved, he said, there still wouldn’t have been enough room for the board of elections and the additional space and security requirements from the voting act.

“We looked at a half-dozen places and it was cost prohibitive. Springview was a real bargain for the board of elections and for the east side sheriff’s office,” Hartley said.

“In the case of what we did move in there (for phase one), we needed to do it. The board of elections for financial considerations and, as it turns out, it was very convenient.”

However, Tackett and Hartley disagreed with recent decisions to do a second phase of renovations to the government center.

“There’s been a lot of money put into it, but there’s been a lot of good use of the facility,” Tackett said. “I think originally the facility was a good thing for the county to purchase. But I have not supported all of the changes by the present board.”

Soil and Water and other departments should have remained at the agricultural building, 4400 Gateway Blvd., Tackett said.

“In years back, commissioners came from all over the state to look at the agricultural facility and were considering something similar in their counties,” Tackett said.

Lohnes and Detrick voted in favor of leasing the agricultural building to Konecranes and doing the second round of upgrades at Springview to make way for the additional offices.

Commissioners also recently voted 2-1 to borrow $750,000 to pay for a portion of those additional renovations. The county also received a state grant and used general fund money from lease agreements to pay for the project, Detrick said.

This month the county also approved a $476,000 lease-purchase agreement with the Clark County Educational Service Center for the Garfield Building, 25 W. Pleasant St., which will offset renovation costs.

Waste of taxpayer dollars

Hartley voted against the Konecranes deal because of concerns about the cost of moving the offices and the gardens and fear the company would leave the agricultural building at the end of the five-year lease.

He was also concerned then that second phase of renovations would cost $1 million to $3 million.

“The ag building location was next to the fairgrounds and it had absolutely gorgeous gardens. It was very convenient and (the county) built the building for the agricultural community,” Hartley said.

The second phase of the project was a waste of taxpayer dollars, Hartley said.

The county is negotiating an agreement to sell the agricultural building to Konecranes for about $800,000, which county officials said would further offset money spent on the renovations.

The agreement could be reached soon, but Hartley questions why officials would sell the building for less than its appraised value and whether the county can sell it without going through the bidding process.

Lohnes said the county will get money back from the lease agreements or sale of the agricultural building to pay for the second phase of renovations.

He also praised Konecranes for bringing 51 new jobs to the community.

Kyle Koehler, who ran against Hartley for a seat on county commission in 2012, supported leasing the agricultural building to Konecranes. Koehler is now seeking the Republican nomination for 79th House District seat.

He said he supported the Konecranes deal because of the economic impact the commercial crane maker could have on the community.

“This has all worked out for the good. They have kept Konecranes happy. To me, it’s been a win-win-win,” Koehler said.

Plan needed

Lohnes said officials need to develop a plan for the remaining 16,000-square-feet of space that is unoccupied.

The county is now focused on making capital improvements to the A.B. Graham building, Kennedy said, and the courthouse downtown.

Administrative offices of the sheriff’s office could occupy the top floor of Springview in the future if officials decide to expand the jail, but Kennedy said no decisions have been made.

Sheriff Gene Kelly said Springview has been a great location for the east district office, which had been inside a former Ohio Highway State Patrol post until Next Edge was built.

“There’s lots of parking. It’s accessible for concealed carry (courses). Our school resource officer and DARE officers are there. All of our uniform patrol use it. There’s a lot of room out there. It’s a beautiful facility,” Kelly said.

His office will always remain downtown at the Public Safety Building, he said, and there’s currently no formal discussion about expanding the jail.

But flooding at the building downtown due to overflowing toilets is an issue. Most of the staff at the downtown building have dealt with raw sewage coming from the upper floors, he said.

“It’s not a conducive working environment,” Kelly said.

‘Going to cost money’

Mayor Warren Copeland said when jurisdictions are given buildings at low cost such as Springview — or in the city’s case the U.S. Army Downs Reserve Center, 1515 W. High St., for about $34,600 — renovation costs can be substantially higher.

The reserve center is the preferred location for a proposed combined 9-1-1 dispatch center.

“Clearly, when someone gives you something that doesn’t mean it’s free. We’ve been given property … Nothing is ever as clear as it looks when you get an old building. Unless it’s an unusual building, you have to assume it’s going to cost money to make it useful,” Copeland said.

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