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Kilmarnock Town Council divided over new home

Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 9:48 am

Howard Straughan

Despite outspoken opposition from the mayor, Kilmarnock’s Town Council decided on Monday to acquire property for a new town hall at a price that some members claimed would be more cost-efficient than maintaining the current facility.

On Feb. 25, council voted 4-2 in favor of buying the Bay Trust Property on 1 North Main St. in downtown Kilmarnock for $729,500, with Councilmen Shawn Donahue and William Smith dissenting.

Councilman Howard Straughan made the motion to approve the purchase, including immediate steps by council to sell the property currently occupied by the existing town hall.

The property in use for town hall has an assessed value of $334,00.

According to Straughan’s motion, the proceeds from the sale would be used towards the cost of the new building.

Councilman William Smith, an accountant in Kilmarnock, opposed the acquisition based on a lack of certified appraisal on the property.

“I think it would be great for us to have a physical presence in the center of town,” said Smith. “But I have a banking and financial background, and I felt we didn’t have a fair price.”

Smith added that he believed council was “reckless and irresponsible” in spending the town’s money on the building without checking with an appraiser.

“I felt we overpaid for the property,” said Smith. “A certified appraisal would have told us the value.”

Donahue also judged the property’s price to be excessive in comparison to the current value of real estate in Kilmarnock.

“I do think the location is excellent and I think it would work well,” Donahue said. “But I think the purchase price is more than what we should be paying for the property.”

Mayor Raymond Booth not only agreed with Donahue, but also said the structures for the town hall and police building in current use were “adequate.” He added that he had wanted to look into a cheaper alternative.

“I would like to do something on town property,” Booth said, noting that he wanted renovations done to the Kilmarnock Police Department.

Councilwoman Rebecca Nunn differed, saying that if council were to make changes to the existing structures, construction costs on the current property could push expenditures to $909,000.

“You have to take into account the price of the land and the bare bones building,” said Nunn.

She added that the new 6,050 square-foot structure was assessed at $556,500 and would have a total cost of $809,500 with modifications and site improvements, and come to a bottom-line cost of $475,500.

Nunn said the option to buy the property on 1 North Main St. was more cost-efficient than spending nearly $1 million on  current structures, which she said were “falling apart.”

“[Town Manager] Tom Saunders has a bucket in his office that he needs to use to catch rainwater,” said Nunn.

“We feel we’ve done our best for the town,” she added.

Councilwoman Mae Umphlett agreed.

“We’ve done our homework on this [acquisition],” Umphlett said.

When questioned why council decided to purchase the land without an appraisal, Nunn replied that they wanted to move to the new building “as quickly as possible.”

“We already had to move our community devlopment person [Susan Cockrell] out of the [current] building,” Nunn added.

She also said the price of the purchase was placed at fair market value, which was “traditionally lower than appraisals.”

In a follow-up interview, Saunders said that if the deal goes through, then it would depend on building inspection and due diligence, which would include a certified appraisal. He added that the deal is not expected to close until July and that it will be a part of the upcoming fiscal year.

Although the public has yet to comment on the matter, Saunders said there will be a public hearing for residents to weigh in on council’s decision and the town budget. Saunders expected the hearing to be held in May.

“We’re not spending without a public hearing,” he said.