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County office move could cost $700K

Future of Clark gardens uncertain.Republican, Democrat still disagree over deal that was designed to add 25 Springfield jobs.

Clark County commissioners could spend up to $700,000 to renovate the Springview Government Center, according to new estimates.

The controversial renovation work became a campaign issue last year when Democratic incumbent Commissioner Dave Hartley objected to a plan to lease the Clark County Agricultural Services Building to a Springfield business that wanted to expand.

The lease deal will lead to the relocation of about 20 employees from OSU Extension 4-H and Horticulture, and about three workers from the Clark County Soil and Water Conservation District, who worked at the Agricultural Services Building.

A divided commission voted 2-1 last year to lease the building to Konecranes Region America after the company announced plans to add at least 25 jobs and pump about $4 million into the local economy annually.

New figures indicate remodeling the center will cost $654,941, plus an additional $35,000 for appliances, furniture, and phone and data equipment, and about $20,000 in architect and engineering fees, according to document obtained from Clark County officials.

Clark County Administrator Nathan Kennedy said previous estimates were much higher.

“It has been whittled down. We looked through it with a fine-tooth comb and made sure that there wasn’t any unusual or unnecessary stuff in there. We made sure it does cover and suits the needs of our tenants,” Kennedy said.

Commissioners earlier this year received a $400,000 government innovation loan from the Ohio Department of Development and a $40,000 grant to help cover the cost of the move to Springview, 3130 E. Main St.

Uncertainty remains whether gardens at the Agricultural Services Building, 4400 Gateway Blvd. will move to the new location.

Commissioner Rick Lohnes said tenants in the agricultural building could move in the fall, but there are currently no plans for the gardens.

Lohnes said he had hoped the cost of the move would have been about $500,000, but he is confident the lease payments from Konecranes as well as rent from the county’s other tenants will pay for the renovation.

“(The cost of the move) is still less than the income from the lease payments from Konecranes and other lease payments,” Lohnes said.

Konecranes agreed to lease the building for five years and has an option for an additional five years.

Lohnes said that after the first five years, he hopes the Clark County Community Improvement Corporation will buy the building.

Hartley was opposed to the agreement and said county officials should have pushed Konecranes to purchase the building.

He said moving the tenants and the gardens would be too costly, and he estimated the renovations and moving the gardens would cost the county millions.

“I think we’re wasting a lot of the county taxpayer money,” Hartley said then.

Hartley and Republican incumbent Commissioner John Detrick sparred about the issue as both men faced challenges for their seat.

After reviewing the estimates on the renovation this week, Hartley said he stands by his concerns.

Detrick said Hartley used the issue to score political points, while others who supported the plan made the decision to bring jobs to Clark County, where the population is at its lowest population since the 1960s.

“It’s a crying shame,” Detrick said. “We’ve got to get jobs in here, and we’ve got treat Konecranes as the great company that they are. We’ve got to treat them with the respect that they deserve.”

Detrick said while the renovation costs are higher than he expected, he said the tenants will help fill a county building that is only 35 percent occupied and pay rent that will help cover the costs.

OSU Extension Director Pam Bennett said her office could likely move between September and November.

“We’re fine with it. It’s not going to be convenient, but it’s going give us chance to get rid of stuff. As far as office space, we don’t have any issues or concerns. But we haven’t heard anything about the gardens,” Bennett said.

Bennett said she hopes the gardens are moved from the agricultural building to the government center next year. She said that if commissioners decide not to move the gardens, extension will likely dissolve the gardens.

“It’s just not efficient. I’m in there constantly, all my data comes from the gardens. The master gardeners help maintain it,” Bennett said.

Bennett said moving the plants is not a big deal, but relocating structures and memorial bricks would be.

“Those kinds of things are going to be costly,” she said.

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