Options still in play for county building space needs

By STEVE ROBB Messenger staff journalist

Click here for original story in the Athens News.

Athens County officials are still exploring options for finding a new home for the local OhioMeansJobs office, with the possibility of constructing a building now being mentioned.

Relocating OhioMeansJobs is just one real estate issue the commissioners are trying to resolve. Another is what will become of the former Atco building in Athens, a decision which could impact the location of the board of elections office, the sheriff’s office, the county records department and the sale of a North Lancaster Street building.

The OhioMeansJob office, formerly known as The Work Station, is now located in The Plains in leased space costing $60,000 a year. The office is operated by Athens County Job and Family Services, and executive director Jean Demosky has said more space is needed to expand services.

On Tuesday, the commissioners visited the former County Home property on Route 13, where the main Job and Family Services office is located, to see if it could potentially be a site for constructing an OhioMeansJobs office.

Commissioner Charlie Adkins said if the idea moves forward it would be necessary to tear down three buildings. They are made of cinder block and are not of historic significance, according to Adkins, who also said a survey would been needed to determine if there are floodplain issues that would need to be addressed in construction. At this early stage, the county does not have a good estimate of what constructing a building would cost.

The county has been in negotiations for the purchase of a building at 510 W. Union St. in Athens for use as a OhioMeansJobs office. At the time the commissioners toured the building in February, the asking price was $1.5 million.

Adkins said there has been some back-and-forth on offers, but a price acceptable to both sides has not been reached.

“At this point, we’re not moving forward,” Adkins said.

Regarding the vacant county-owned Atco building, early discussion involved moving that Athens County Board of Elections and the county records office to the building. The elections board voted 3-1 to ask for the move, which would provide it needed space, including space for storage of new elections equipment. Since then, the idea of moving the sheriff’s office to Atco has been broached.

As for the records department, moving it from its North Lancaster Street building would allow the county to sell that building.

Adkins said another possibility for the records department would be to move it to the former Dollar General building in Glouster. The vacant building is expected to be donated to the county once back taxes are paid.

The Messenger recently reported that election officials wanted to meet with Adkins to discuss space needs of the elections board office. That meeting has taken place, although it does not appear a resolution was reached.

Adkins said he asked for, and has received, information of the office’s space needs.

When new election equipment was delivered last month, Elections Director Debbie Quivey and Deputy Director Penny Brooks had it taken to the election board’s cramped offices downtown. Brooks and Quivey maintain that vote tabulation equipment must kept in the office for security reasons, although Adkins maintains that storage space available at the Atco building is as secure and better meets state requirements.

Adkins said Tuesday that there is other space near the elections board office that might be a possibility for storage of the equipment, but he declined to elaborate.