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G'town takes next step toward new town hall

Council still eyeing old 7-Eleven building

February 27, 2008
Georgetown officials took another step toward relocating the town hall by conducting a required public hearing last Tuesday during the town council's regular monthly meeting. But only a couple of residents had comments or concerns with the council's plan.

At a special meeting earlier in the month, the council passed an ordinance with a 4-1 vote that would allow officials to purchase the former 7-Eleven food store building. Councilman Mike Mills abstained, saying he didn't have enough information to make a decision. The asking price of the property was $200,000, but officials indicated that it could be bought for $190,000.

Several problems with the present town hall, a former bank building, were discussed, including problems with the roof, guttering, and bricks falling out of the wall in the upstairs of the building. Mold behind some of the wallpaper on the interior walls was also stated as a concern, as was the need for more room to conduct public meetings.

However, Georgetown resident and local business owner Don Farnsley expressed reservations about the plan to purchase the other building.

"I have some serious concerns with this," Farnsley said. "This has a foul odor to it that doesn't make sense. It was my understanding that the property was already sold, and papers were already being drawn up. He (the buyer) came down here and asked about putting up a building behind the place, then the seller didn't want to sell. He then found out that the Town of Georgetown wanted it."

Farnsley went on to say that the purchase would only increase parking by two or three spaces, and that the additional parking across the street from the present town hall would be lost.

"I don't have a problem with a different town hall," Farnsley added, "just that building. It was handled wrong, and you know it."

"I feel like we're doing a disservice to our employees to make them work in this type of environment," Councilman Aaron Striegel said. "And this building has 900 square feet of space compared to 2,400 square feet in the other building."

Town Council President Billy Stewart insisted that the town hasn't bought anything, but that it has to start somewhere.

"This building is like watching 'Green Acres,' " he said. "The electrical system here is a nightmare. There's problems with the roof and brick. No decision has been made, but residents want the town hall to stay downtown."

"Has anyone actually tested this building for mold?" asked one member of the audience. "And the building you want to purchase is a 40-year-old building. So, you have 40-year-old plumbing, a 40 year-old furnace and so on. I would be cautious. It could be that $100,000 to update it may be cheap."

"Yes, we've had someone identify the mold here," Clerk-Treasurer Doug Cook responded. "And we've had an estimate of $12,000 to repair the roof, plus another $12,000 to fix the brick problem."

Cook also noted that the roof on the 7-Eleven building did have leaks, but they were around vents and not a major problem.

"I'll agree on the furnace," Cook said. "It may need replacing. But I recommend this building highly. And the reason the other people didn't get the building was that they couldn't come up with the money to purchase it."

"I was told that they had the money," Farnsley said, "but Georgetown wanted the building."

Cook added that he called the owner of the building for information and was told that there wasn't another buyer.

"We got an option to buy the building for 60 days, with no deposit," Cook said. "It's an option to purchase, and either party can back out."

Stewart indicated that EDIT (Economic Development Income Tax) money would be used to buy the property. He also said that the council had already saved the town quite a bit of money from eliminating three positions, including that of the town manager.

"I came to all the budget meetings," resident Elizabeth Madden said. "The town was desperate then. Are we OK financially? I was here when some of the bricks fell upstairs. I'm aware that something needs to be done. My concern is that we not get in a situation like we were last year."

"We have no personal reason for wanting a new town hall," Stewart said, "but it's going to have to be done."

There will be more on the issue at the March 18 town council meeting.

In another matter, Town Attorney Jim Montgomery said he received a letter from an attorney representing the Floyd County Sewer Board informing him of deadlines that must be met in order to avoid penalties associated with the sewage service that Georgetown buys from New Albany.

The letter also stated that after Feb. 1, 2009, the usage rate for Georgetown would increase from $2.88 per 1,000 gallons to $10.11 per 1,000 gallons and that after that date the tap-on fees for new customers that are now collected by Georgetown will be collected by New Albany. The present tap-on fee is $3,000.

The letter indicated that if certain deadlines are not met, there could be a $450,000 payment that Georgetown will owe to New Albany.

"If we don't do anything, our sewer bills could be $60 to $70 a month," Stewart said. "We will lose all of our tap-on fees — they will go to New Albany. And we may have to pay them $450,000. We have to do something.

"We have to wait 30 days from the time we passed the ordinance, which will be 11 more days, then we can begin construction on our sewage treatment plant," he said. "We have to build. It'll cost us more to not build.

"We're going to form a committee here tonight that will be part of a joint committee with Harrison County. We will have four people on the committee and Harrison County will have four. They (Harrison County) could become co-owners of the sewage treatment plant. We'll meet with them tomorrow. They will probably become equal partners or a customer. We have customers — they don't."

The council appointed Stewart, Councilman Everett Pullen, Cook and Georgetown Public Works Supervisor Jim Reynolds to the joint committee.

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