County purchase reduces variables for expansion

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

Options for the future of the Franklin County Courthouse and a judicial center became clearer last week with the announcement that the Franklin County Commissioners voted to purchase the former Chambersburg Trust building at 14 N. Main St. In addition, the Commissioners voted to purchase options on the former Harmons Furniture building, at 26-28 N. Main St., Chambersburg, and the Jennings auto dealership site, at the corner of Second and Grant Streets.

The purchase price of the Trust Company Building from AMS is for the amount remaining on the present owner's mortgage as of the date of settlement. According to a news release released by the commissioners, that amount changes daily, but is approximately $1.5 million. The county presently rents 11,240 square feet of space in the building and 20 parking spaces for a total yearly cost of $152,717.  The entire building contains 43,028 square feet.  The rental income from other tenants of the building is approximately $130,000.

“This is a smart investment for the county,” said Commissioner Chairman David Keller.

“We no longer will pay rent, and the building gives us much needed flex space.”

Funding for the purchase is from the unspent bond proceeds and interest of the 2004 bond, the release noted.

Commissioner Bob Thomas said, “No additional general fund monies will be used for this purchase.”

The contract for the Harmons building gives the county until Dec. 31, 2010 to decide whether to purchase for a fixed price of $425,000. Settlement would then occur within 60 days of ratification. The contract for the Jennings property gives the county until Feb. 19, 2011 whether to purchase the entire five-plus site for $2.5 million.

Settlement would occur within 12 months of ratification. Each agreement gives the owner a right of first refusal should the owner receive another bonafide offer prior to the County exercising the option. The county bears no cost if it chooses not to exercise the options, according to the release.

Commissioner Bob Ziobrowski added, “The Trust Company purchase stands alone as a prudent investment, regardless of whether we build new or remodel to meet court needs.

“The Harmons and Jennings agreements reduce the number of variables in this very complex process of planning for the future of county programs.”