EATON — Representatives from the Preble County Art Association met with the Preble County Board of Commissioners during their Monday, Aug. 10 meeting to discuss the PCAA building at 601 Hillcrest Drive.
PCAA Executive Director Vicky Fanberg began by discussing the timeline between the PCAA and the commissioners that led to Monday’s meeting.
She said that conversations first began in the summer of 2017, two years before the PCAA downtown building was opened, though it was purchased in Aug. 2017.
The PCAA met with Commissioner Rodney Creech and Preble County Prosecutor Marty Votel in Dec. 2017 to discuss options, and by Feb. 2018, an appraisal had been done for the Hillcrest property which was requested by the commissioners.
The appraisal was sent to the commissioners in March of 2018, and the commissioners then toured the location the following month as Fanberg said there was a possibility of the PCAA being compensated for the building and land improvement.
The Board of Elections inquired about the property in Oct. 2018, and the PCAA then met with the commissioners about auctioning the land in January and June of 2019.
After another meeting in January of this year, the board voted unanimously on proceeding with a bid packet in February. On March 11, the PCAA was then given a timeline of approximately 30 days for the bid packet to be completed.
After COVID-19 halted non-essential business, Commissioner Creech recorded the lease in June so that the bid process could move forward, but the board then had a meeting in July to determine whether or not the bid process should take place.
“So what I’m here to ask is I don’t understand, between voting on it in February to move forward within 30 days, why we are still waiting for that to happen and not even waiting for it to happen, but have gotten to a point where you guys feel that you need to revote on if it can even happen again,” Fanberg said.
Commissioner Denise Robertson said that the PCAA contract, which states that if the building is given up by the PCAA that it would revert back to the county, is complicated and that she thinks it would be risky to put the property up for a bid.
“I have always been wanting a more fair and balanced share for the taxpayers,” she said. “Meaning, you know, I think that the contract that the art association got was very generous on behalf of the county.”
In response, Fanberg said that she is confused as to what the commissioners think would be more fair for the county.
“We’ve never asked for this land to be given to us,” she said. “We’ve only asked for the opportunity to be able to be compensated for all of the improvements that we’ve done to the land.”
She added that the county would receive funds because the PCAA wants to essentially purchase the land from the county, and that most in the community realize the value of the PCAA to the community.
“The taxpayers are the ones that have also been the donors to the art association for all these years and have raised over $1.5 million to invest in not only the Hillcrest property, but the new property that we’ve invested in and improved in downtown and I think all of that is an asset to Preble County, and to say that it’s not fair to the taxpayers?” she asked. “Those are our taxpayers.”
Commissioner Chris Day then made his stance clear on the proceedings.
“I think you know my stance all along is very clear on the agreement and what is supposed to happen,” he said. ‘If you guys move from there, it reverts back to the county.”
Fanberg then argued that the lease between the PCAA and the county is just a lease, not a constitution.
“I mean, you’re not protecting work of the forefathers that created Preble County,” she said. “It’s a lease agreement, and so as a lease agreement, you can also write new lease agreements to be able to do what’s best for the county.”
Fanberg then said that she and Commissioner Day have had discussions over the years in which he said they would work something out, and he responded saying that these things are often done on the back end, and that the PCAA should have worked things out before moving to the downtown location.
Fanberg went on to say, “Except that you specifically would block me from working it out because you would say, ‘You haven’t raised the money. We don’t know when you’re moving. I don’t want to move forward until you know what you’re doing.’ Those are words that you’ve said to me over the past few years.”
Commissioner Day agreed with her assessment, and Commissioner Creech then added that they should do what is best for the county.
“I don’t know what’s changed. I think I know what’s changed, but it’s sad because I feel like, you know, there were decisions made two years ago based on selling this building, and just four to five months ago, we all three sat up here and agreed that we were going to sell the building,” he said. “In fact, we were starting the process to put it out for bid before COVID-19. I think it’s very sad that things have changed.”
Fanberg then thanked Commissioner Creech for caring about arts in the community, and he clarified that the bid process would already be complete were it not for COVID-19.
“So, this is not a finished deal one way or the other,” Robertson said.
In other business:
- During the Preble County Commission Meeting on Monday, Aug. 3, the board authorized a payment of $5,500.00 to the landfill and $1,450.12 to the auditor.
- During their meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 5, the board noted receipt of a letter from Chad Hoke, the new Chief Deputy Recorder. Additionally, a year-round youth program services agreement with Job and Family Services for $75,000 was approved.
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.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles