Commissioners vote for option to buy building, pending voter approval

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FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to enter into an agreement to buy Church Street Commons for $795,300 to house several county government operations.

The purchase-and-sale agreement is contingent on the outcome of voter approval of a referendum question on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Commissioners agreed to authorize the town’s attorney Frank Underkuffler to attain a purchase agreement with owners, Stephen Braconi and Joseph Carlson, of Massachusetts.

Commissioners also voted to have Underkuffler prepare an option for the owners to hold the property at a cost of $39,700. The option is to be paid in two installments. The first payment would be paid after a satisfactory title exam, environmental assessment and Farmington Planning Board approval.

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The second payment would be due after the referendum vote.

The purpose of the option is to make sure property is held pending the referendum, said John Cleveland, a consultant with the architectural firm handling the project.

The owners also plan to re-invest the net proceeds into Franklin County, Cleveland said.

It is amazing that the developers have agreed to put that in the purchase agreement, said Commission Chairman Gary McGrane of Jay.

Smith, Reuter, Lull Architects have been working on plans to alleviate space, safety and environmental concerns in county buildings for two years.

The plan is, pending voters approval, to move the registries of deeds and probate, county commissioners’ office and administration, emergency management and custodial services to the Church Street Property.

The other part of the project is build an addition onto the Sheriff’s Department office to increase the space. Currently dispatchers and sheriff’s staff work in tight quarters.

The estimated cost of the overall project as of May 4 was $4.2 million, including $800,000 factored in to buy the Commons, which is the former Knowlton-McLeary Printing building on Church Street, which off Main Street and across from the Franklin County Courthouse. The building has been renovated by the owners and now houses Greater Franklin Development Corp., Western Mountains Alliance, among other organizations.

The county plans to add a second floor to the attached annex of the building if the project is approved.

The District Attorney’s Office would be moved out of the basement at the courthouse to the main floor. The state court system is interested in refurbishing the courthouse and will consider it in the future.

Commissioners also re-affirmed their intent to pursue American Reinvestment and Recovery Act money and to make the Church Street Commons project a priority. They also affirmed their intent to see low interest bonds to be paid over 20 to 25 years to get the best deal for county taxpayers.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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