Portage County commissioners are trying to tie up available office space until they complete a study of future space needs for government offices. They passed two resolutions Thursday authorizing them to negotiate terms and then, if appropriate, sign purchase options on fourth floor space in three buildings and a parking lot near the county courthouse.
The county is looking at office space in Riddle Blocks No. 1 and 8 and a whole office building at 241 S. Chestnut St. that formerly housed the Social Security Administration office. A nearby parking lot on Spruce Street is also being considered, commissioners said.
Riddle Block No. 1, on the southeast corner of Main and Chestnut streets, was renovated after a near-disastrous fire in December 1992 destroyed its upper stories.
Commission President Chuck Keiper said commissioners are about to seek proposals to do a space utilization study to help predict county government's space needs over the next 10 to 15 years. That study could take up to six months to complete, Keiper said.
"At that point the board will make decisions on whether we build or buy," Keiper said.
The problem facing commissioners is that several of the major properties with vacant space near the courthouse came up for sale or lease before the space study was started.
"We're a long way from deciding what we want to do," Keiper said, so commissioners decided to tie up the properties until the space study is done.
"We don't know that we're going to buy anything. Nor do we know we're not going to buy anything," Keiper said.
In the past year, however, the commissioners have purchased or acquired three pieces of property near the administration building, and considered a fourth.
Last December commissioners paid $61,500 for a house on Meridian Street from Dominic Corsino. The house is surrounded on three sides by county parking lots.
In June, the board acquired a home at 432 S. Chestnut St. for $1 and other consideration from the Community and Economic Development Corporation. Plans announced at the time call for the historic home, which is located just north of the county administration building, to be renovated and leased out as office space for the Portage Area Development Corporation.
In July, the commissioners paid $67,000 for a residence at 226 Harris Ave., which also adjoins the administration building parking lot.
The purchase leaves one parcel in private homes on the south end of the county block with the county administration building. Commissioners had considered buying that home, on the corner of Harris and Meridian, for a reported $100,000. They wanted to renovate the house for office space and talked with the Portage County Regional Planning Commission about moving there. But commissioners dropped those plans when county building officials said the home could not economically be brought up to commercial codes.
The second phase of courthouse renovations is also causing commissioners to look for more office space. Some courts, judges and other offices will have to be shifted out of the courthouse to allow renovation to go on. And commissioners would like to keep them in close proximity to the courthouse. However, some courthouse staff could be housed at the Portage County Justice Center, where a courtroom is now being used by the sheriff's staff as office space.