The Delaware County Board of Commissioners rejected all bids for the purchase of the historic county jail and former sheriff’s residence located at 20 W. Central Ave. in Delaware, with the intention of negotiating the potential transfer of the property to the Delaware County Land Reutilization Corporation (DCLRC).
Delaware County Treasurer Jon Peterson addressed misconceptions and the real purpose of the DCLRC during the board’s Thursday morning session.
“There is a misconception generally that land banks are for and only for the purpose of taking dilapidated, abandoned properties and rehabbing them or in some cases demolishing them,” he said. “That’s a misunderstanding, because in many, many counties, the mandate is to redirect, to repurpose, to renovate where appropriate, a piece of property that hasn’t really been abandoned but isn’t being used to the extent that it might be.
“I think this might be the purpose here,” he added.
In the interest of preserving the historic nature of the county landmark, Peterson suggested it might be appropriate to negotiate a contract that would prohibit demolition of the building.
Land reutilization corporations are given the authority to act on behalf of the county under Chapter 5722 of the Ohio Revised Code as the agency to reclaim abandoned or blighted properties to bring them back into productive use. Commissioners approved the adoption and implementation of the DCLRC on Jan. 28, 2017, making Delaware County the 50th county in the state to form a land reutilization corporation.
Aric Hochstettler, an assistant Delaware County prosecutor, said that by the board rejecting the bids, “in no way are any of the bidders prohibited from at some point in the future (negotiating) for the acquisition of that property.
“In fact, what we found in this process is that the county commissioners are simply not set up to exactly really negotiate the sale of this property,” he said. “By utilizing the land bank, it has much more flexibility with more tools at its disposal to find the best outcome for the property.”
Hochstettler said it was best to find an alternative and that the DCLRC is the “perfect opportunity” for the best outcome.
After the session was adjourned, Hochstettler said the “three bidders submitted very different visions for the property.” He said that normally in the sale of a property, there are back and forth negotiations.
“The bid documents are fixed,” he said. “We can’t open it back up. There has to be a better way.”
The process to sell the property began in February when the board authorized Jon Melvin, facilities director, to publish a legal notice to accept bids on the property. At that time, a minimum bid was not specified and the commissioners retained the right to reject all bids.
Two bids were received in May. The highest bid was from Micheal Cox and Nick Mango, local attorneys, of $156,000. The second bid of $10,000 came from Roxanne Amidon, owner of Amidonian on West Winter Street in Delaware.
The bids were rejected by the board, and after receiving additional input, the bid specification was adjusted. A minimum bid was instituted, and the invitation to bid was once again extended to the public in July with an opening date of Aug. 24. The board again retained the right to reject all bids, which it did.
In September, the board approved an addendum to the invitation to bid giving bidders a choice of bidding on the historic jail or bidding on the historic jail and sheriff’s residence, along with the house located behind the jail at 22 Court St. and the parking lot just west of it.
This newest round of bids was opened Oct. 31.
“The Board of Commissioners has zero desire to see the building torn down and wishes to preserve the historic nature of the city’s downtown,” Brad Lutz, Delaware County’s Director of Business Operations and Financial Management, states in a press release issued Thursday. “We expect this factor will be part of the terms of the transfer.”
Lutz added that with the new phase, only the historic jail and the surrounding land would be included in the discussions with the DCLRC.
According to the National Archives Catalog, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 12, 1990. The Queen Anne-style building was constructed in 1878 at a cost of $25,845, and it was designed by architect David W. Gibbs of Toledo.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.