WARREN - Even with council's approval to sell up to $3 million in bonds for the purchase of a new building, the city likely is still weeks away from finalizing a deal with the owners of the buildings being targeted for purchase.
Mayor Doug Franklin described Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold's criticisms about one of the buildings being considered, The Gibson Building, 258 E. Market St., as overblown.
Council members on Wednesday voted to approve the three bond issues that will allow the city to improve what have been described as long-neglected streets, upgrade city-owned buildings and parking lots as well as buy a new building for employees working at 418 S. Main.
The $2.5 million bond for roads and the $4 million bond for the renovation of existing city buildings each were passed unanimously. Saffold voted against the building bond.
Saffold, D-6th Ward, said she walked through The Gibson Building a couple days before this week's vote, just to see what the city is considering.
"I went through it during one of my lunch hours," Saffold said. "I just went through it on my own. I did not have anyone take me through it, but I was able to go through the whole building."
Councilman John Brown, D-3rd Ward, said he attempted to go through the building once before the vote but was turned away.
Saffold described the basement of the building as being primarily used as storage.
"I think the area could be refurbished and used for office space," she said.
Like members of the administration, Saffold said her ultimate goal is to get city employees out of 418 S. Main and to a safer environment.
"I knew I would be the lone dissenter in the vote, but I could not in good conscience vote on the building portion without having these questions answered," she said.
Saffold said a plan should be in place that identifies what problems exist in the building and how the city plans to address them. No plan was presented to council.
"There are some roofing issues that we are aware of," Franklin said. "There is not an electrical problem with the building. There was a problem with Ohio Edison that has been taken care of."
Franklin said any problems identified with the buildings are being considered during negotiations and will be reflected in the eventual prices. He said the 16-year-old, 50,000-square-foot Gibson Building is the newest building in the downtown area.
The Social Security Administration is leasing the first floor through 2017. Two other tenants are leasing a portion of the second floor through 2017. There is approximately 6,000 square feet available for new tenants on the second floor. The third floor is available.
There is enough onsite parking for 240 vehicles.
If the city purchases The Gibson Building it will earn income from the leases.
Franklin said that ff the purchase of a new building is completed before the end of October, the three city departments in 418 S. Main could move in before the end of the year.
"Our tenants are not part of the move," Franklin said. "They may decide to stay in the building or move to another location."
After purchasing its new building, the city will begin the process of selling 418 S. Main St.
"We've seen some soft interest in the building," Franklin said.