The purchase of property adjacent to the County Services Building and 911 complex was put on hold by the Budget committee of the Baxter County Quorum Court during its meeting Monday. The property, which is owned by Benny Magness, contains approximately one-quarter acre and has what is described as a "dilapidated" structure that once housed a filling station situated on it.
During a discussion of the potential purchase, Justice Nelda Speaks of Mountain Home said she felt a number of questions should be answered before the purchase was approved by the Budget Committee and sent on to the full Quorum Court, including a determination of whether any environmental issues might arise on the old filling station site which could prove costly for the county to deal with. Speaks also wanted to have more information regarding the value of the property. Baxter County Judge Mickey Pendergrass said Magness had originally set a purchase price of $100,000 for the parcel but the price has been reduced to $70,000. The property is appraised at $40,000 on the county tax books and Speaks said she wanted to ensure that the asking price was justified and asked if an outside appraiser had looked at the property. Judge Pendergrass said that had not been done and that, in his opinion, an appraisal would be difficult because there are few comparable properties to use in making a value comparison.
Judge Pendergrass said that demolition of the old building could be accomplished at minimal cost to the county. The equipment to do the job will come from the county Road and Bridge Department and prisoners from the Arkansas Department of Correction may be able to provide the labor, although Pendergrass said there's no certainty of that. Magness is chairman of the state Board of Corrections. Magness got word of the meeting afterwards and contacted KTLO, Classic Hits and The Boot. He said he doesn't control where DOC work crews go and certainly has not given any assurances of inmate labor as a condition of the sale.
The gasoline tanks that supplied the station were removed a number of years ago and the site monitored for some time. Speaks said she would like for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to inspect the property and to give the county a letter saying that the property did not pose environmental problems. Judge Pendergrass said that he believed that any environmental problems were taken care of when the gasoline storage tanks were removed.
Because of what have been described as a peculiar set of circumstances approximately 20 feet of the new County Services Building, formerly the headquarters of the Mountain Home Police Department, is located on the Magness property. The 20 feet is now leased form Magness on a yearly basis at no cost to the county. Justice Leon Alexander of Norfork, chairman of the Budget Committee, said he felt it was in the county's best interest to purchase the Magness property. He said if it was sold to someone else, the lease on the 20 feet might prove to be extremely expensive.
In addition to addressing the overlap problem, purchase of the Magness property will allow room for any future expansion of the County Service Building/911 center and permit the correction of a drainage probem affecting the 911 center.
The Budget Committee will revisit the purchase during its next meeting July 10.
During the discussion of the property purchase, County Treasurer Jenay Mize told members of the Budget Committee that she was concerned with the balances in the County General Fund. She said that it was possible that the county might be forced to reduce current year budgets by as much as $370,000. She said that she wanted the justices to understand the situation prior to making decisions on additional outlays. Mize was asked to prepare a report which would outline the situation and to present the report to the Budget committee at its meeting next month.
Judge Pendergrass informed the justices of two budgets where additional funds might be needed.
A shortfall might be coming in the budget for the Hazardous Waste pickup operation, according to Judge Pendergrass. The county Road and Bridge Department is desginated as the site where citizens take household hazardous waste and where those wastes are disposed of. When the 2014 budget was put together, $10,000 was set aside for the operation and Pendergrass said it now appeared that at least $5,000 in additional money would be needed for the remainder of the year.
The Building and Grounds budget for his year is also "very tight" according to Judge Pendergrass because of a number of major breakdowns. Of the $50,000 allocated for the Building and Grounds budget, only $21,000 remains. Judge Pendgrass said that if a major problem arose, such as the break down of a large air conditioning unit, then the amount remaining in the budget might not be sufficient.
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