County considers building purchase
The possibility of Carbon County purchasing the Wal-Mart building once it is vacated by the corporation to move to the store's new site was one of main issues discussed by the Carbon County Commission last Wednesday at the regular public meeting.
"We have 45 days to look at this situation and see if it is something we would be interested in," explained Commissioner Mike Milovich as he introduced the possibility. "We need to hire an engineer to see if it would be cost effective to retrofit the building for our use."
The issue is somewhat fuzzy due to the commission's not knowing whether the county could convert the building for its needs.
One of the needs is a new road shop which is in the early stages of development and would be built on Airport Road near the county landfill. The road shop has been projected to cost about $2.7 million to complete. Wal-Mart has offered to sell its existing building, which is about 11 years old, to the county for $1.5 million. But the conversion costs are presently unknown.
"I know that, when the charter school was looking at the old Koret building, the estimated cost of converting it was projected to be $1.5 million," pointed out Milovich. "That is why we need to get a good estimate to see if it is viable to do this."
The cost to construct a building like the Wal-Mart facility would be more than $120 per square foot.
But the company, based on corporation's offer, is willing to sell the structure for a little more than $22 per square foot.
The purchase could be a good deal. However, not all of the officials, employees and residents are sure buying it would be a good idea or something the county would want to do.
Commissioner Bill Krompel brought up a few points concerning the purchase that he had heard from various Carbon residents and county employees.
"I have had a lot of comments from people about this and many of them wonder if this would be a good idea," said Krompel. "I'm not saying we shouldn't look at it, but there are a lot of concerns."
Krompel presented three main points in his discussion with the commission.
Some people believe the retrofit costs would be too high, as much as $2 million or more.
Employees are concerned about the compatibility of departments all being at the same location.
For instance, the county offices would be in the same building with the road shop, basically mixing administration with light industrial use.
Some residents question the wisdom of taking potential commercial property off the tax rolls.
New scales are being installed at the land fill.
One reason the road shop proposal was enticing was that the scales would be near by to weigh trucks going out with materials for the crews.
Others expressed concerns that the present county building had recently had a great deal of money spent on it for remodeling and that money would be wasted if all the departments moved.
Some concerns were also raised about the location of the Wal-Mart building vs. the "central" site of the present county complex.
Finally, others were concerned about what might happen to the present building if the county moved out.
In response to the concerns raised by Krompel, Milovich and Commissioner Tom Matthews spoke to the issues at hand.
"First of all, I am less concerned about how the employees feel about this change than I am about how the taxpayers will come out," said Milovich. "It would make sense if it didn't cost too much for us to spend much less money to retrofit this building than it would to build a new road shop. My guess is that this would be an expensive proposition, but so is some of the other alternatives."
Milovich pointed out that the courthouse in the center of Price is more than 40 years old and needs a lot of repair. The costs to maintain the facility grow every year.
"As far as taking the property off the tax roles, I don't think commercial development would happen there anyway," indicated Milovich. "Wal-Mart wants to sell it to the county because the company doesn't want to sell it to anyone who might bring in competition with the new store."
Another county department in need of a new facility is the ambulance service.
"A new ambulance garage will cost a million dollars," commented Matthews. "This could help to solve that problem along with a number of others. We could put everything in one building and save money."
As for what would happen to the courthouse and ambulance garage in downtown Price, discussion suggested that the museum may be interested or some other public entity might take over the buildings.
In the end, the commissioners decided that there was no way they could not examine the possibilities.
The lawmakers approved a motion to advertise for bids from engineering firms to conduct a study and determine what it would take to turn the discount chain's building into a county public service center.