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Walthourville looks to expand city hall
The property bought for Walthourville City Hall expansion includes a former home now used by owner Jimmy Reynolds as an office for Reynolds Construction Co. - photo by Andrea Washington / Coastal Courier
It took the Walthourville City Council less than an hour last week to discuss, have an executive session and then seal the deal on a $160,750 land purchase, the first move in a future plan to move or expand the Walthourville City Hall.
Councilmembers voted unanimously to buy the property adjacent to the Walthourville Volunteer Fire Department along Busbee Street from Jimmy Reynolds after some wrangling over the final price.
Reynolds' initial asking price was $162,500 for the property that includes a two-story house, formerly the train master's house, and more than an acre of land.
"I had (the property) appraised a little over two years ago and it was appraised for almost $150,000, but of course, now property values are up," Reynolds told the council. "I was asking for $175,000, but the mayor brought me down to $162,500 and I told him I'd take it."
He acknowledged the home needs "some cosmetic work," but said he was selling the package "as-is."
This did not sit well with residents concerned about how much additional money would be spent on remodeling and the need for the property at all.
"The city is talking about using the budget to purchase this property, but do you have an intent for what you're going to use it for at this time?" homeowner Dorci Gailliard asked. "Have the councilmembers for the city of Walthourville looked at it and decided what they wanted to do with it?"
"It will be used for office space," outgoing Mayor Henry Frasier responded, adding the four current city hall employees are cramped inside one small office in the current building. "And we do need a new city hall. There's enough space down there to put another city hall."
Resident Gwendolyn Dykes, noting the recent remodeling of the present city hall's meeting room, roof and carpet, then questioned why these projects were undertaken if city officials were already thinking about moving the structure or constructing a new one.
"I've seen how clustered (the employees) are. It's pretty pitiful in there, I'll admit it," she said. "But if we're running out of space in the building we're currently in, why did we just spend I don't know how much money on redoing this place to go somewhere else?"
Frasier said the current structure would still be used, but did not say how.
Sally Dowlen of the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission, speaking in support of buying the property and reasoning that "at some point city hall will have to move," said it made financial sense for city to acquire the land.
"From a transportation perspective, something that is very economically effective is to buy right-of-way in advance to need because it is less expensive than it is later on," she said. "And you can apply that same principle to acquiring real estate a little bit ahead of the time you need it because you are actually saving economically."
Following a few more minutes of discussion between council members and residents, the council opted to hold an executive session to further discussion the matter.
Coming out of the executive session, councilman Larry Baker said, "Mr. Reynolds, we've looked at the details and we really want the property, but can we adjust the price just a little bit more to $159,000?"
Reynolds responded he would split the price "right down the middle between (the difference of) $162,500 and $159,000," leaving the final asking price for the property at $160,750.
The council unanimously approved the price and the purchase.
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