Editorial: Passing up a good deal

April 4, 2014 

Though town commissioners have apparently not taken official action, they’ve each indicated a desire not to accept an offer for the purchase of the old town hall on the corner of Arendell Avenue and Vance Street.

The offer – $90,000 – is a fair amount below the asking price. And it is an asking price that’s been dropped at least twice since the building first went up for sale five years ago.

But it’s been five years. And it’s been longer than that since the town board told voters it would use the proceeds from such sales to reduce the amount of debt the town must pay for the purchase and renovation of the old Wakelon School which now houses town offices.

And, while the intendeed use of a building can’t be a factor in refusing to sell, it is interesting to note that the group of investors who made the offer want to use the building for an arts center. That would create an almost immediate public use for a facility that has been sitting on the market for a lengthy time.

And according to the would-be purchasers, there is enough renovation that must be done to the building that paying market price for the property makes it impractical to turn around and invest tens of thousands more dollars in the building to make it useful for its intended purpose.

Commissioners are certainly correct to want to get as much for the facility as they can. But buyers haven’t been clamoring over the property lately. In fact, buyers haven’t been showing much interest at all. If the experience with the former police station is any indicator, the preliminary acceptance of an offer kicks off an upset period that could spark interest on the part of other buyers.

That has increased the value of the offers on that building significantly. If the same happens with the town hall, then commissioners could move toward making good on their desire to get as much as the market will bear.

If no competing offers arise, town commissioners have taken a significant step forward in providing a popular service for residents – all without having to spend public money.

Commissioners should rethink their initial position and consider the arguments put forward by the investors. They make sense.

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