County announces land swaps to house departments

A land swap will provide the nursing division of the Bartholomew County Health Department with a permanent home, while a separate purchase will do the same for the Purdue Extension office.

As part of the land swap approved by Bartholomew County commissioners, Colum- bus Regional Health will receive three parcels of vacant property from the county.

One is the land where the former Bartholomew County Annex building stood near State and Mapleton streets until it was demolished last fall.

The other two are irregularly-shaped parcels, which total about 1.3 acres, located near the hospital’s mental health services building off Lincoln Park Drive, county attorney Grant Tucker said.

In exchange, the county will take ownership of two suites at 2675 Foxpointe Drive, where the health department’s nursing division has been located since last summer.

The hospital system had purchased the former offices of Dr. Daria Schooler just a short time before the health department moved in. Under a rental agreement approved in June 2015, the county agreed to pay $60,000 to rent the suites for 18 months.

When asked by county council candidate Pam Clark whether all properties had been appraised to ensure an even swap, Tucker said such steps are not legally required because no money is exchanging hands and the hospital is county-owned.

However, commissioners chairman Rick Flohr said the original asking price for the medical offices was in excess of $550,000.

The total paid by the hospital for the Foxpointe Drive facility last year “far exceeded the amount the commissioners had been offered for the annex property,” Tucker said.

When questioned, most health department employees said they were satisfied with their current location, Flohr said.

The joint resolution still needs to be formally approved by the local hospital system’s board of trustees before the exchange can be finalized, Tucker said.

Meanwhile, the final potential obstacle toward purchasing two buildings south of State Street for the extension offices has been removed.

The commissioners gave their initial approval July 5 to a purchase agreement for two buildings where Premier Ag Co-Op Inc. operates at 785 S. Marr Road.

Later that month, the county council approved a resolution to use money from the Telecommunications Fund to finance the purchase.

But under state law, the two buildings had to be evaluated by two independent appraisers, and the price could not exceed the average of the combined appraisals, Tucker said.

The county attorney announced Monday that the average of the two appraisals came to $725,000, which exceeds the $700,000 selling price.

After receiving that update, the commissioners unanimously approved a resolution authorizing purchase of the 31-year-old buildings.

Originally, Premier Ag was asking $900,000 for the property but was receptive to the county’s original offer of $800,000, commissioner Carl Lienhoop said.

The selling price was then lowered an additional $100,000 in exchange for the county providing Premier Ag one year to vacate the premises, Lienhoop said.

Since more than 8,000 square feet of combined space is being acquired on the 1.72-acre site, another county department currently renting or leasing space will likely move into one of the buildings, commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said.

Bartholomew County Soil and Water Conservation was identified as a potential candidate by the commissioners.

Premier Ag, a 93-year-old farmer-owned cooperative, announced its merger with Jackson-Jennings Co-op in February and will be moving operations to Seymour next summer.

The extension office is expected to remain in his current location at 965 Repp Drive until at least July. When the lease for the former Starks Mechanical building was announced last summer, the rent was established at $3,596 a month.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.