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There has been fleeting interest in Piatt County’s empty annex building, but not enough to prevent the county from getting a cost estimate to tear down the structure.
Especially since realtors have told county officials the lot near Monticello’s downtown square may actually be worth more to a developer if there was no annex building.
“I don’t want to raze the building now, but I just want to know that cost, in case we go down that road.” said Piatt County Board Chairman John Lyons at the finance committee meeting Jan. 16.
The 14,000 square foot structure has not had occupants since April of last year, when the last of the county offices it housed officially moved to the old Kirby hospital property on N. State St.
Since that time the annex failed to sell at auction, and other possibilities have fallen through. City of Monticello Director of Community Development Callie McFarland said late last year that the city was still getting calls about the property.
But finance committee member Randy Jo Keith said “I don’t think anyone’s going to buy it the way it is.” Appraised at $160,000, a ballpark figure of $80,000 had been thrown last year out as a possible demolition cost.
The county is not taking bids at this point, but will try to get some more firm estimates on the cost to raze the structure, referring the issue to the Building and Grounds Committee.
Committee member Kathleen Piatt felt that if the annex was demolished, “it would raise the value of the property,” and other committee members agreed, although they were not sure how much more it would be worth.
Committee member Dick Wilkin added that there is “still some interest in it,” but that the county should be patient. A cloud storage company from Boston that has shown interest in renting space in the new Piatt County Office Building also toured the annex for possible space.
“We shouldn’t just give it away,” Wilkin commented.
Lyons just wants the property to be of benefit to the community.
“I would just like to have something good on that property for the City of Monticello and the County of Piatt,” said Lyons.
The county could use bond money to tear down the building. The county borrowed $1.5 million to pay for the $750,000 purchase of the old Kirby property and renovate it for county use. Lyons said there is about $250,000 left in that bond fund.
Wilkin added that concern over possible contamination on the site seems to have been unwarranted. The county paid for a Phase I Environmental Assessment study last summer, and “we’re clean,” said Wilkin. Cost of the study was about $3,500.
911 funds drying up
A reduction in telephone land lines in the county is putting financial stress on the Piatt County Enhanced 911 system, according to Keith. A $1.95 per land line surcharge funds the E-911 system.
Cellular phones are also charged, but at a rate of just 73 cents per phone, and only 58 cents of that is turned over to the county.
Jim Cripe, director of the system, said the county saw a “dramatic drop” of 2,000 land lines in 2012, and that they have dropped from 10,000 in 1998 to just 3,000 by the beginning of this year.
Revenue from land lines over that time has dropped from $18,000 to just $6,000 per month.
And while cell phone use is on the rise, it doesn’t make up for the land line loss.
“It takes four cellular phones to make up for one land line,” said Cripe.
The system is also in the midst of paying back a loan taken out in 2010 to upgrade equipment. A total of $46,000 is due this year, the same amount in 2014, and $22,000 and $16,000 in the final two years of the loan.
Cripe hopes legislative action this spring will alleviate the funding crisis for 911 systems throughout the state. One proposal would increase the surcharge on cell phones to 80 cents, and allow counties to keep the entire amount.
“People need to make sure they get behind our legislators to get that through,” encouraged Cripe.