EATON — Preble County Commissioners recently purchased Junction Village Mall in Eaton, a longtime fixture which has been home to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Preble County Title Office, The Register-Herald and more, for years.
Although some private businesses may still be located in the facility, the county’s future plans include moving and consolidating some county offices there.
“It’s an opportunity to condense or consolidate where services are located to make it easier for the people to find their services,” Commission President Rachael Vonderhaar said last week.
According to Preble County Clerk of Courts Brionne Reynolds, the Title Office, already located in one suite in Junction Village, has outgrown its current space.
“We’re going to move to the old Radio Shack space,” Reynolds explained. “And we’ve already expanded so far as offering hunting and fishing licenses, but we have other opportunities coming down the line this next year. So, we’re going to expand that space. We will hopefully be adding another employee in the next few months. And we’re going to remodel the whole area.”
She continued, “I’m looking to do that with COVID-friendly counter space and the customer area in the lobby will be much bigger so that people won’t be sitting on top of each other.”
Reynolds hopes to have the Title Office moved into its new location by some time in February.
According to Vonderhaar, the BMV has asked for more space and will also be expanding its area.
Another possible tenant the commission hopes to move to Junction Village is the Board of Elections.
“The hope is, we’re looking to solve the issue with the Board of Elections,” Vonderhaar said. “A lot of county dollars and time have been spent on that conversation. And so here we are with an ADA building, one floor, plenty of parking, plenty of space — more than they’ve asked for. And simplifying where the voters find their services.
“So, if you have the BMV, Title and then you have BOE, it’s simple,” Vonderhaar continued. “If it’s not at the courthouse, this is where you go find it.”
Commissioners say there is nothing official yet in regard to relocating the BOE to Junction Village, but they have “had some really good conversations with the Board of Elections in dropping the lawsuit that is pending currently in Supreme Court that they have against the Board of County Commissioners.”
“We looked at the value of the building and the timing of it, to offset the expenses and time that has already been put into mediation, legal expenses ($40,000-plus,)” Vonderhaar said. Initial attempts to make the courthouse compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act included remodeling of parking spots alongside the courthouse (nearly $75,000) proved to be more of a hazard, according to commissioners.
“It’s a historic building. I mean, that’s just the reality of the history of the building, and we all appreciate the beauty and the functionality that it does have,” Vonderhaar said. “But when we think about something like our right to vote, let’s put that somewhere where it’s accessible to everyone.”
The space to potentially be used for the BOE will also have the potential for a drive-through in the event that service is needed in the future.
Other hopes for Junction Village is a meeting space for zoning meetings, planning commission meetings and others, with technology which will allow for livestreaming and proper recording, according to officials.
Commissioners have approved web-based software for recording of their own proceedings which will be able to be used for those zoning meetings and such. “We just need to make sure we have the right recording equipment there to then upload,” Vonderhaar said. The software will be able to do both audio and video.
Commissioners expressed their gratitude for the Day family, former owners of Junction Village.
“They were legitimately excited that the building was going to be used for what we intend to use it for,” Commissioner Adam Craft said.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr.