The Delaware County Board of Commissioners authorized Jon Melvin, county facilities director, on Feb. 26 to publish a legal notice that essentially put the historic Delaware County Jail and former sheriff’s residence up for sale.
On May 3, according to the commissioners’ agenda, the bids made for the purchase of the historic jail were all to be rejected, until the highest bidder asked that the item be pulled from the agenda.
Attorneys Michael Cox and Nick Mango, Delaware, approached the commissioners asking them to reconsider their bid of $156,000, supposedly the highest bid offered for the jail.
Cox said the jail was advertised for sometime in several publications without a minimum reserve price.
In February, Melvin said the county didn’t set a minimum price because the board of commissioners has the right to reject all bids.
“Both Mr. Mango and I have an interest in the county. We both work, bought, and rehabbed the building less than a mile from there now,” Cox said. “I live less than a mile from there in the Northwest Neighborhood, and we appreciate the architectural history.”
Cox said he and his partner, Mango, had consulted with a historical architect and sent a letter to Melvin outlining their vision for the building.
“We’d keep the structure much in the same use as it has been over the past 130 years,” he said. “It keeps it within the Delaware legal community. We practice regularly here within the courts.”
Cox said if the commissioners are considering putting the jail back on the market, “it presents quite a few hazards for the county.”
“It presents the potential that an outside entity with more ambitious plans for that site with deeper pockets comes and takes on an idea to totally remove the building, to totally overhaul the building, to remove it from its current use or anything resembling its historic use, and would put the county in a difficult spot.”
Cox added if and when someone puts down a bid of $500,000 or more, they also have the potential to spend another $200,000 in legal fees. He said they could rezone the property or circumvent the use restrictions that are in place “to put a gas station there.”
‘The county would be in a tough spot to reject such a bid and justify it to their constituency,” he said. “The highest and best use of that property would be to remove the structure that is there and proceed with that property in some other manner.”
However, Cox said if it were up to him and Mango, the building would be preserved for the next 30 years and hopefully, passed on to other attorneys or legal people so it could stand 200 years.
“We ask the commissioners not to reject the bids that are submitted and rather enter into negotiations,” he said.
Commissioners moved the rejection of the bids for the historical jail from the agenda to Thursday, May 10, at 9:30 a.m. at 101 N. Sandusky St, Delaware.
“I think all three commissioners should be here for that conversation,” said Commissioner Gary Merrell.
Commissioner Jeff Benton was scheduled to be out of town until Monday, and Merrell wanted him to have time to review everything before facing a decision.
According to the National Archives Catalog, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 12, 1990.
The building was constructed in 1878 at a cost of $25,845 and designed by architect David W. Gibbs, of Toledo. The first jail was a 12-by-24 log cabin built in 1814, and a second jail was constructed in 1850. The historic jail now up for sale was the third jail constructed for the county.
Currently, the historic jail is the law library and the office of the Ohio Fifth District Court of Appeals. Both will move to the historic courthouse once it has been renovated.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.