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June 4, 2014

Floyd County to continue property discussion

North Annex at the top of the list

NEW ALBANY — The Floyd County Commissioners and Floyd County Council got together Tuesday night to discuss the possible sale of property. But the only decision made after 40 minutes is that more discussion is needed.

County Council President Jim Wathen called for the meeting after a committee was organized last year to look at county-owned property, and the possible sale of some of that property to help ease the county’s financial problems.

“A lot of these discussions have been going on for a long time,” Commissioners President Mark Seabrook said following the meeting.

The main discussion centered around the North Annex along Grant Line Road, which used to house some county offices, including the youth shelter, prior to the Pine View Government Center opening two years ago.

The North Annex is now shuttered, with the county still paying insurance and some utility costs. Don Lopp, director of county operations, said it would cost between $350,000 and $400,000 to tear down the building.

That idea has angered some historical groups. The North Annex was built in 1878, and preservationists are most concerned about salvaging the front portion of the building.

There has been some interest in the property from nonprofits Blue River Services and Family Scholar House. There was also some interest, Wathen said, recently in the building and the surrounding 17 acres for a price of $500,000. Wathen said he didn’t think it would be wise for the county to sell off all the land that fronts the North Annex.

Six years ago, the property was appraised for $4 million, but that was before the economy suffered. Most agreed Tuesday that the county should have the property appraised again.

“It’s been sitting for a while. We either need to sell it or tear it down,” Commissioner Steve Bush said.

Seabrook said if the National Guard building next to the North Annex becomes available, the land would be even more attractive to developers. The key, most agreed, is to maintain Sam Peden Community Park’s integrity.

“We need to be selective in what we have appraised [due to costs]. I think we need to have the North Annex and O’Brien Property appraised,” said Councilwoman Lana Aebersold.

The O’Brien Property is 30 acres the county received in a land swap when Georgetown was constructing its sewer plant.

The group also discussed moving the county’s probation department and selling the M.L. Reisz Building, and to better utilize the Pine View Government Center.

There has been talk of moving the Floyd County 4-H Fairgrounds from Green Valley Road to Galena Park, which has 30 acres. However, constructing new barns and buildings might make the move cost-prohibitive.

“I just think we’ve kind of outgrown the current location,” Wathen said.

Wathen said officials are split when it comes to discussing selling Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services.

“I was looking at a 2012 financial statement from the hospital. They increased their cash on hand by $11 million, and of that we receive none of it. But we turn around and pay the hospital rent for the health department,” Wathen said. “This place is a cash machine and it would be nice if the taxpayers could see a return on their investment.

“When I say everything is on the table, everything is on the table.”

Wathen said if the county does sell property, it won’t solve the current financial woes. The county is only expected to have $18,000 in the general fund at the end of the year, and already this year appropriations have been denied by the state Department of Local Government Finance because of a lack of money.

He said the money should be put into some type of investment fund, with the county only getting a small percentage each year.

No dates were set for further meetings between the commissioners and council.

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