EATON — Preble County Commissioners continue to discuss offering several area organizations the opportunity to come under one roof in the County Office Building located at 119 S. Barron Street in Eaton.
Currently, Preble County Economic Development Partnership (PCDP) and Preble County’s OSU Extension are located in the building.
During a meeting on Monday, Nov. 18, commissioners discussed a proposal which would allow PCDP, Preble County Chamber of Commerce, and Preble County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) to share space in the building. However, this would mean finding a new location for the Extension Office or finding room for it within the building.
One current proposal would swap the Preble County Extension from the north side of the County Office Building to the south side of the building, where PCDP is currently located.
According to PCDP Director Brenda Latanza, they have been discussing the sharing of a facility for many years, believing it would increase convenience for Preble County residents interested in the services these three organizations offer.
“Most importantly, [we want] to make it more convenient for our customers. Because, so many times, clients will go to [Chamber Director Leslie Collins] and she ends up referring them to my office or vice versa. And someone is always calling about CVB,” Latanza said.
Commissioner Rodney Creech added, “The other thing is, with small offices, [when people take time off] your office might be closed sometimes. The doors may be locked, because you’re out doing your job, and there is nobody to answer the phone.”
Consolidating the offices into one building would increase the likelihood someone was on site to answer the phone or greet customers. Being close to downtown would also increase visibility for all departments involved.
“That was ultimately always the goal, to make this happen. We’re eight or nine years into this now. When we were first looking into these models, we went across the state,” Commissioner Chris Day said. “We saw a model where this was similar and we thought this was the best mix.
“We’ve been working towards that and it gets to the point where it is time and a place to start pushing forward. The biggest thing for us right now is for us to figure out how we deal with Extension Office. That is something we need to figure out.”
Preble County CVB President Stephanie Garrett asked the commissioners to consider Preble County Extension’s timeframe when moving their location, so they are not trying to move during a busy period.
Commissioner Denise Robertson added, she believes Extension is looking into different locations, hoping to ultimately find space on the Preble County Fairgrounds. Commissioner Creech countered — then there would have to be a cost discussion to determine who would be paying for the building.
“Long term, if Extension can building something [at the Fairgrounds] that’s great, but we’re trying to building something for the Expo Addition and not having any luck,” Creech said. “I think swapping [building sides] is an option. There is going to be some give and take and it is going to make some people uncomfortable for a little bit.
“If I have to look at who needs what square footage: 4-H and Extension is [currently] in a square footage that is probably three or four times the size they need. These three entities here are growing and the proof is in the pudding — we have a lot of good things in the county. I would like to see you under one roof, and the sooner, the better. I don’t want to wait on Extension coming up with a plan, when there may not be one.”
However, Commissioner Day would like any move with Preble County Extension to be permanent.
“I think the biggest thing is we have to figure out what we want to do with Extension. I know it sounds easy to swap and all that, but we need to find a better alternative — that is my opinion,” Day said. “My goal would be to have Extension out of that building, so it is more of a professional building. I don’t mean this to sound mean, but if you get a bunch of kids in there doing business, it gets a little loud at times. I would like to find a more permanent solution.”
The board agreed to speak with Preble County Extension and further discuss the situation among themselves, to figure out “short and long term” options.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH