EATON — The Preble County Art Association (PCAA) made a further plea to the Preble County Board of Commissioners to issue bid packets for the property at 601 Hillcrest Drive during the board’s regular meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 9.
PCAA Board Secretary Jean Bussell spoke on behalf of the PCAA.
“A few weeks have passed since our executive director Vicky Fanberg spoke to you about the history of our discussions with you individually sand as a board of commissioners,” she said. “Since then, we have continued to discuss our goal of having you, as a board of commissioners, implement the decision you made in February of this year to issue bid packets for the land on which the Art Association’s building at 601 Hillcrest Drive in Eaton sits. I am here today to repeat that request.”
She then informed the commissioners of the history of the plot of land at 601 Hillcrest drive, beginning with the initial purchase of 12.5 acres of land by the county in 1884 for $1,437.
The current lease between the county and the PCAA accounts for just 2.113 acres of the original purchase, which in 1884 would have been worth approximately $243.
Accounting for inflation, those 2.113 acres would be worth $6,420.96 today.
“The point here is that when the county releases the bid packages for the 2.113 acres, the result is likely to be a huge return on investment for the county given the actual estimated value of the acres today of similar market rates,” Bussell said.
Bussell also pointed out to the commissioners that the 100-year lease was established between the county and the PCAA 30 years ago, and asked them to think about where they were and who they were 30 years ago.
“Now, think about the role of legislative bodies such as the county commission, the state legislature, and Congress,” she said. “The role of these entities is to establish the laws of their respective jurisdictions and then, over time, to update those laws for the good of their citizens.”
She then asked the commissioners to recognize that decisions made by previous county commissioners may not be effective in dealing with today’s issues, and that the financial stakes are much greater for the PCAA given that improvements to the property have been done by the PCAA.
“We believe that each party’s interest can be served best by the county issuing the bid packets for the land upon which the art center at 601 Hillcrest Drive sits, including the remaining 70 years of the lease,” she said. “In this way, we believe each party can receive the return on its investment in an appropriate manner.”
Commissioner Rodney Creech then said that this is an issue he doesn’t want to leave open.
“I think we need to make a decision because I don’t want you all wondering what’s going on,” he said. “I’m wondering what’s going on myself. We made a decision on Feb. 19 to put this property out for bid. Are we gonna do it or not? Instead of saying we’ll see, or maybe, or I need to talk to somebody. That’s kind of where I’m at.”
Commissioner Chris Day elected not to comment on the issue, and Commissioner Denise Robertson warned that a deal for the PCAA could have others looking for similar deals.
“One thing that we have to consider as a board is that anytime we make a decision that benefits one party over another in the county, that opens the door for others to come in and say, ‘You did it for them, why can’t you do for us?” she said.
Bussell reiterated that the county would receive an “enormous” return on the money that was spent in 1884, and Robertson said that everyone just needs to be careful.
“Like I told Vicki, even though she thinks it’s a flawed thinking, that once it goes out for bid, it’s a jump ball. I’m sorry, I think that somebody could say, you know, there might be wiggle room in this lease thing and try to outbid you,” she said. “So, I’m fine with it. We did say that in February. I’m fine to put it out there. We’ll have to argue over what the minimum bid will be, but we did say we would put it out there and I’m fine with doing that because I would like to close this before the end of the year.”
Bussell agreed it would be great to figure things out by the end of the year.
The Preble County Board of Commissioners meet every Monday and Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the Preble County Courthouse. These meetings are open to the public.