Commissioners agree to buy building for new Register of Deeds office

MIKE CONLEY/MCDOWELL NEWS

This week, County Manager Ashley Wooten said the county and the seller have agreed upon a price of $285,000 for the purchase of this building at 35 West Fort St. The proposed closing date has been set for July 12. It will become the new location for the Register of Deeds office.

The McDowell Register of Deeds office will move to a building on Fort Street in Marion that has been up for sale.

During their regular meeting on Monday, the McDowell County Commissioners talked again about the courthouse project, which also involves finding a new location for the district attorney’s office and the Register of Deeds.

The courthouse renovation work has moved from demolition into the construction phase. The demolition of several sections of the parking deck is complete and the contractor will soon pour footers on both the upper and lower levels.

The commissioners have already stated their preference to relocate the Register of Deeds office from the courthouse to another location. That would allow the district attorney’s office to move into that space.

County officials previously talked about using the current EMS base on South Garden Street as a new Register of Deeds location. This structure should be vacated in the next several years once the new EMS bases are completed.

Architect Chuck Hamrick recently visited the EMS base on South Garden Street and looked at its condition. He estimated that a renovation of the base for a new Deeds office would cost between $625,000 to $750,000 and it would not be available until 2022 at the earliest due to time it would take to build the replacement EMS bases, according to County Manager Ashley Wooten.

Some of the commissioners said recently it would be prudent to find an existing building that is ready for occupancy sooner rather than later. This would save money and time. County officials started looking at the building at 35 West Fort St., located across from the First Baptist Church. This building is currently for sale and has adequate space for the Deeds office and other county uses, said Wooten.

At a special meeting on Thursday, May 31, the commissioners authorized the purchase of the building at 35 West Fort St. The seller countered at $285,000 and indicated that the price could go no lower.

This week, County Manager Ashley Wooten said the county and the seller have agreed upon the price of $285,000 for that building with the due diligence period extending through July 6 and a proposed closing date of July 12.

In other business at Monday’s meeting, the McDowell County Commission:

• Heard a report from Chuck Abernathy, executive director of the McDowell Economic Development Association. Abernathy talked about the further development of the Universal property and the addition of a walking trail around the site. Abernathy talked about the building of a 7-foot wide trail with a loop around the two ponds on the property. A disc golf course would be constructed along with benches and picnic shelters. Abernathy estimated the project to cost less than $10,000. “The goal would be to put this in operation by August,” he said. The commissioners approved the plan.

• Heard a report from Carol Wolfenbarger, president of Mission Hospital McDowell, who gave an overview of the Mission Health/HCA Healthcare merger that is now under regulatory review. HCA is headquartered in Nashville Tenn. and is notably a for-profit company, unlike the non-profit Mission Health. If the merger proceeds, the properties owned by Mission/HCA as well as the equipment will be taxable. Wooten said early estimates put the revenue that will be received by the county to be more than $200,000. Wolfenbarger said the merger is still in the due diligence phase and that should be complete by this summer. It will next have to go to the state attorney general for review.

• Approved the installation of a lift at the Marion branch of the county library. The estimated costs for the lift are in the $25,000 to $30,000 range. The county has reserved $20,000, a private donor has committed $8,000, and the Friends of the Library have donated $2,000.

• Heard an update on the Stacy Hill Road water project. The pre-construction meeting will be held on Friday with an estimated start date in mid-July.

• Heard an update about the county’s portion of the Catawba River greenway. There is some level of concern that the Alberto flooding has possibly affected the property, which may change the design. The county’s engineer is reviewing the damage. If the damage is significant, the county may want to seek FEMA funding to restore the land to its prior condition.

• Approved policies regarding use of credit cards, purchasing, conflict of interest and a change in the travel policy.

• Approved a series of budget amendments.

• Appointed Shearon Cline and Charlotte Moore to the Library board of trustees and former Commissioner Randy Hollifield to the McDowell Technical Community College board of trustees. They also named Commissioner Brenda Vaughn as their voting delegate to the N.C. Association of County Commissioners conference in Hickory on Aug. 25.

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