Clark County Educational Service Center has completed a seven-year lease-to-own deal and now owns the former Garfield Building after paying $476,000.
The ESC moved to 25 W. Pleasant St. in 2007 after signing an agreement with Clark County that called for the center to pay $60,000 initially and about $70,000 annually for the past six years.
The county has placed the payments it received into its rainy day fund.
ESC Superintendent Stacia Smith signed the deed recently to purchase the building with county commissioners looking on. It’s the first time the center has owned its own building in its 100-year history.
“We’re just happy with the building,” Smith said.
The ESC provides support services to seven school districts in Clark County. The center provides a variety of services, including professional development training; special education program development; and physical, speech, and mental health therapy.
The service center was previously located just north of Downtown at 30 Warder St. It moved to its current facility just south of Downtown after county commissioners moved the Clark County Board of Elections and the county planning and zoning commission out of the building.
The rent at the Warder Street facility was $100,000 annually, Smith said, and officials had been notified that it was going to increase.
“We thought it was ridiculous to pay that amount of money and not own it,” Smith said.
Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said the deal between the county and ESC was a win for both sides.
The service center asked to purchase the building at a time when the county was under a mandate to meet new building standards for the Board of Elections, he said.
The Board of Elections and other offices were moved to the Springview Government Center, 3130 E. Main St., allowing ESC to move into the Garfield Building.
“This was a real good situation,” Detrick said. “It was a great community savings to the Board of Elections and to taxpayers.”
Smith and Marcia Nichols, assistant to the superintendent, support and operations, said purchasing the building will reduce overhead costs and help maintain current services.
“Our funding has been cut 30 to 40 percent over that last four years. Reducing our overhead costs means that we will have more money to allocate toward the services we provide to the schools,” Smith said.
Smith and other ESC staff in February asked county commissioners to spilt an estimated $20,000 maintenance bill for repairs to the heating and cooling systems.
They told commissioners the building had more than 30 thermostats and none of them worked and that it had been an issue since they moved into the building.
The county decided against splitting the bill because the lease stated that the ESC agreed to pay all occupancy and maintenance costs related to the use of the building and property, according to documents obtain by the Springfield News-Sun.
Commissioners declined to assist, but Smith said the relationship between the educational service center and the county remains positive.
The deal between the county and ESC came at the right time, she said, when the county was moving offices to the Springview Government Center.
Owning the building, she said, will allow the educational service center to save money that can be used in the event of an emergency.
“It … helps us generate a cushion in case we have a (maintenance) issue. You have to have a little carry over in case things happen,” Smith said.
The Springfield News-Sun digs into local government spending, including recent stories on the Clark County Educational Service Center superintendent’s plan to retire and be rehired.