PREBLE COUNTY — The Preble County Commissioners voted unanimously to start the process to put the old Art Center land — located at 601 Hillcrest Drive — out for bid during a meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 19.
This decision came after several citizens voiced their varying opinions over the last several months. Some believed the commissioners should honor the original lease, which states the property reverts to county ownership if Preble County Art Association (PCAA) ever stops using it for “art purposes.” Others believed the commissioners should work with the PCAA to find a solution that would benefit both parties.
PCAA Executive Director Vicky Fanberg spoke to the Preble County Commissioners during public comments.
“At the end of January, I submitted a letter asking that you share [Preble County Prosecutor Martin Votel’s] opinion that was prepared on our property, so we would have a level playing field and know what options are out there. I wanted to see if you guys were planning on responding to that letter,” she said.
Commission President Denise Robertson responded, “We have a letter in response to that. We have been advised that is attorney-client privilege information, so we won’t be sharing it.”
Later in the meeting, Commissioner Rodney Creech brought the topic back up, making a motion to move forward with the process, which he explained, would be long.
“We met with [Votel] Wednesday and he laid out the options we have. I emailed him Friday and [asked] what’s the next step. I feel like we’ve delayed this for certain reasons — Board of Elections and other unknowns. We have the option to put the land out to bid and I would like to get that moving forward — it is a process that takes time. I would like to make a motion we do put the land that the Art Center building is sitting on for bid,” he said.
Commissioner Chris Day seconded the motion.
Day explained, anyone will be able to bid on the land and if the land is awarded to a party other than the PCAA, the lease will go with the land. Technically, the building would be sold with the land, but the PCAA would still be under a 99-year lease.
“You would be dealing with an unknown property owner,” Robertson said. “That makes me nervous. I think it is risky.”
Creech responded, “We have no other option.”
Commission Clerk Kim Keller asked if they wanted to put the land to auction or sealed bid and the board requested sealed bids.
The motion passed unanimously.
Commissioner Creech asked for Prosecutor Votel to be involved, so they can get the wording 100 percent accurate with the lease.
“I just think it needs spelled out, so people know what they’re buying,” he said.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH